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Deadly High Surf Conditions Bring Monster Breakers, Strong Rip Tides And Sneaker Waves To Ocean Beaches

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean, whipped up by weather systems hundreds of miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area, triggered a beach hazards warning Sunday morning, bringing with it the threat of deadly rip tips and sneaker waves.

The Bay Area remains locked into moderate to severe drought conditions as the jet stream has sent the winter storm systems slamming into the northwest.

While rain has not been in the forecast for a while, the weather systems to the north have sent a massive northwest swell crashing along the Northern California coast.

Since December at least six people -- including two small children -- have seen swept out to sea to their deaths.

The National Weather Service issued a High Surf Advisory for Bay Area beaches starting Sunday morning and staying in place through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

"A large, very long period northwest swell will arrive Sunday morning and result in hazardous conditions along the coast through Monday afternoon," the National Weather Service said. "Forerunners (waves) are expected to arrive at 3 to 7 feet with a period of 22 to 24 seconds, increasing the risk of sneaker waves. Swell heights are then expected to build through Sunday with breaking waves of 18 to 22 feet, locally higher a favored breakpoints."


Among the areas most exposed to the northwest swells are San Francisco's Ocean Beach; San Mateo County's Montara State Beach; Monterey County's Marina State Beach and Monastery Beach in Carmel.

"These large waves can be erratic and unpredictable and may injure or knock beachgoers into the cold, turbulent ocean," forecasters warned.

The surf has proven to be dangerous and deadly the last two weekend.

Last Sunday, a massive swell capsized several small sailboats 'like dominoes' at the mouth of the Santa Cruz Harbor, forcing marine rescue units and local surfers to pull 12 children who were taking part in a sail school from the turbulent, frigid waters.

While a tragedy was avoided in Santa Cruz that wasn't the case elsewhere along the coast. A search was underway for a woman swept out to sea at Pescadero State Beach and a San Jose man in his 30s was missing after being swept from the bluffs into the ocean in the Marin Headlands area off Point Bonita.

Two weeks ago, a father drowned while attempting to save his two children -- a 4-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl -- who had been swept out to sea at near Blind Beach in Jenner. The two children remain missing and are presumed to have died.

The high surf has also taken its toll on Municipal Pier in Pacifica. The popular beach destination will be closed for at least a month after large tides and pounding waves damaged a 40-foot section of its deck and concrete railing.

City officials are working to find a structural engineering firm to assess the damage and help with repairs.

Pacifica Pier closed for repairs
Pacifica Pier closed for repairs (CBS)
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