By CBSLA Staff

NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) – Weather forecasters are warning of higher surf and stronger rip currents for Orange County beaches, increasing the danger for hordes of visitors expected during the Fourth of July weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a beach hazard that is statement effective Saturday through Tuesday evening.

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Surf of three to five feet is expected, with the highest on south-facing beaches.

“Strong rip and longshore currents will create dangerous swimming conditions,” the NWS said. “Larger waves can wash people off rocks and jetties.”

The waves could hit six to 10 feet at The Wedge in Newport Beach, Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brian O’Rourke said. Those conditions are only safe for swimmers and bodyboarders with experience, he said.

But O’Rourke said he worries about the majority of beachgoers who think just because they are strong swimmers in a pool, they will be safe in the ocean.

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“They don’t know about rip currents. They struggle, fight and become exhausted, he said Friday. “Panic is also a problem.”

Anyone who goes into the ocean is urged to swim in front of a staffed lifeguard tower and check in with the lifeguard about current conditions, O’Rourke said. Almost all lifeguard towers are likely to be staffed.

The proper technique for escaping a rip current is to swim sideways or parallel to the shore rather than attempting to swim directly to shore, he explained. Swimmers in distress should wave their arms and a lifeguard will respond, he said.

O’Rourke noted that lifeguards enjoy talking to visitors about water safety. “We want everybody to enjoy the beach and come back,” he said.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)