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High Surf Advisory: Antarctic Storm May Bring 11-Foot Waves

The biggest waves are expected Wednesday through Friday, but higher than normal surf is predicted through the Labor Day weekend.

A storm near Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand has created a strong southwest swell expected to hit Southern California on Wednesday around 5 p.m. and generate waves up to 11 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS has issued an advisory stretching from San Diego to San Luis Obispo County. The high surf advisory will continue until 5 p.m. Friday, with the biggest waves expected Thursday and Friday.

At its peak, the storm created 50-foot waves, said Robert Balfour, senior forecaster for the NWS' San Diego office.

"So, of course, as the waves move out, they start to settle down, and it's been traveling north for almost two weeks, so it's dropped a lot in height but nonetheless a lot of that energy is still in there," he said.

Swells from the storm actually began to arrive Tuesday, but were indiscernible to the human eye, Balfour said.

"I came out here because of the swell," said Alex Bergeson, a Santa Monica surfer who was jumping in the water on Wednesday afternoon near  in Pacific Palisades.

It's not unusual for a strong winter storm from the Southern Hemisphere to impact wave activity in California, Balfour said, but for a cold system to carry swells this size this far, three things have to happen: A storm needs to create swells large enough that are pointed toward our direction, winds have to be of a certain strength and those winds have to blow for a certain amount of time to carry the waves across the Pacific Ocean.

This is the fourth large south swell of the summer, Balfour said. Two others occurred after hurricanes churned waters off the coast of Baja California.

He expects high to above normal surf all weekend because of the swell and the moon cycle creating high swings in tide activity.

The NWS also stresses caution as there may be a high rip current risk as well.

chris johnston September 02, 2011 at 01:58 AM
thank heavens for the lifeguards. I saw kids swimming out right into a rip current today and the lifeguards were there to get them, avoiding trouble.

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