The National Weather Service in Eureka, California has issued a High Surf warning for the North Coast from Friday morning till the evening. The North Coast has seen five deaths in the past month as a result of the dangerous surf. It is vital residents and guests practice safety when enjoying the beautiful but at time unforgiving vistas of the coast.
On December 7, 2020, 65-year-old Salt Lake City woman Mary Malouf died after being swept off of Eureka’s North Jetty. On January 2, 2020, southern California educator David Reyes Juarez was visiting Mendocino Big River Headlands State Park with his family when he fell into the turbulent waters and after a multi-agency rescue attempt was pronounced deceased. On On January 3, 2021, while visiting Sonoma County’s Blind Beach a father and his two children, a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, were swept away.
Regarding the High Surf Warning, the National Weather Service issued the following statement:
High Surf Advisory is in place for 4 AM Friday through 10 PM Friday. A new large long-period swell around 18 feet is expected to build on Friday. Expect breaker waves around 20 to 23 foot for west to northwest facing beaches to bring hazardous conditions for the beachgoers and mariners Friday morning through evening. Beachgoers should exercise caution. Avoid dangerous locations such as exposed rocks and jetties and steep beaches. Stay farther back from the surf zone. Larger sets can appear suddenly and can be dangerous if you are not paying attention. Never turn your back on the ocean!
The Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department provided the following safety tips for visitors to the coast to ensure their safety:
5 Tips for Enjoying the Water Safely
- DON”T UNDERESTIMATE THE TIDE AND IDENTIFY RIP CURRENTS
- This is especially true at the river mouth where the river and ocean meet. We have seen people of all ages struggle against tidal forces which can drag people from the protected river out to the ocean. This is even more pertinent to parents with children who are playing on inflatable devices. Look around rocks and see which direction the water is moving before entering. Keep in mind that this can change so keep reevaluating.
- HAVE A BUDDY
- Enjoying the water with a friend is always a good idea. You can look out for one another and call for help if an emergency presents itself.
- USE FLOATATION DEVICES
- The largest limiting factor for first responders is time. Although it will be a scary experience losing control, keeping one’s head above water gives first responders adequate time to respond if a rescue situation presents itself. Make your way out of the water if possible to prevent hypothermia.
- TAKE A DAY OFF AND KNOW YOUR LIMITS
- Watch the water for an extended period of time before entering. If you have any doubts as to whether or not it is a safe day to enjoy time in the water then try again later. It’s better to change your plans for one day than potentially risking your life.
- LEARN TO SWIM
- Everyone can improve their skills as a swimmer. Being a competent swimmer will help one remain calm when experiencing an unexpected situation in the water.
5 Tips on Dry Land
- KEEP AN EYE ON THE OCEAN AT ALL TIMES
- Whether one is looking at a sea star, posing for a picture, or looking back at town the risk for sneaker waves is always a possibility. Have someone who can give a warning to retreat to higher land and know that even a small swell is no reason to let one’s guard down.
- BE A SAFE BYSTANDER
- If you witness a cliff/surf rescue, first get yourself to a safe location and then call 911. Don’t become an additional victim that will strain first responders and potentially place them at further risk. Take a deep breath, try to stay calm, and look for landmarks to give to the dispatcher. Keep your eyes on the victim at all times.
- BE AWARE OF CRUMBLING SURFACES
- The Mendocino coastline features sandstone as a prominent rock-type. Overtime, rock surfaces can become less secure and footing that previously was reliable may change.
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS
- Although the rocky coast provides for prevalent tidepools that can’t be found on other coastlines, exploring these hotspots of wildlife is not for everyone. Slippery rocks covered in algae can lead to traumatic injuries and an unfortunate tumble into the water.
- IF YOU FALL IN THE WATER, STAY CALM
- Struggling upon falling in the water will only lead to exhaustion and may not increase the chances of survival. Don’t fight the waves but rather work with the ocean to make your way to a safer location. Swimming parallel towards the shore (towards the breaking waves) and letting the waves move you towards protected rocks will give you an opportunity to get out of the water and regain your strength. Getting to higher ground, even if it isn’t on the main shore, will give time for first responders to come help.