Wild waves pose danger in Southern California

CBS News

SEAL BEACH, Calif. - Two big storms are churning off both U.S. coasts - Hurricane Cristobal in the East, and Marie in the West, downgraded Wednesday from a hurricane to a tropical storm.

Both are hundreds of miles off shore, but they are generating life-threatening rip currents and dangerous waves on both coasts.

"This is the biggest swell I've seen in 25 years," said Joe Bailey, the lifeguard chief at Seal Beach in Orange County.

Bailey said Seal Beach had to call in extra lifeguards. The rip currents threaten even strong swimmers.

"It makes it difficult even bring a victim back in through the surf. It's so large that we are having to take victims to certain parts of the beach where the surf is way less," he said.

Low-lying areas had to be protected from the surf and high tide with sand berms. Orange County fire crews who man fire lines this time of year helped sandbag the shorelines.

The surf did cause some flooding overnight in Seal Beach. In Malibu, the waves threatened multimillion-dollar homes and damaged the pier.

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The waves threatened multimillion-dollar homes in Malibu. CBS News

But the danger and the spectacle drew huge crowds. Michael Westmoreland has surfaced most of his life.

"I think, if you can read the conditions and you respect the ocean and you know your limits, yeah, I think it's OK out there," he said.

It's a surfer's dream, but the waves are beginning to die down. Forecasters say the waves will get back to their normal 2 to 3 feet by the weekend.

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