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Deadly Sneaker Wave Warning Issued For Northern California Beaches

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A storm front drifting south from Oregon into Northern California was churning up the Pacific Monday, triggering deadly sneaker waves and strong rip tides along Bay Area beaches and bringing with it a chance for showers across the drought-stricken region.

Forecasters said the light showers would begin in the North Bay late Monday-early Tuesday morning. The amounts will range from 0.25-0.50 of an inch in the North Bay, 0.10-0.20 of an inch for SF and a tenth or less from the Peninsula southward.

While the showers will be a welcomed relief, the turbulent waters will present the greatest threat. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous beach warning for the region from coastal Sonoma County to coastal Monterey County from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"Very long to long period west-northwest swell will develop from coastal Sonoma County to coastal Monterey County Monday evening
and night resulting in a high risk of sneaker waves and strong rip currents," the weather service said. "Swell periods gradually decreasing Tuesday morning and afternoon, however the risk of both strong rip currents and sneaker waves will continue during the day. "

Sneaker waves are so dangerous because "the ocean can appear deceptively calm with long lulls between larger wave sets." And then the wave strikes out of seemingly nowhere and the beachgoer is tossed into the churning waters.

"(The calm conditions) may lead to individuals venturing onto exposed coastal features where infrequent but powerful waves can overwhelm them, knocking them into the cold, restless ocean where the possibility hypothermia or drowning is severe," the weather service said. "If visiting the coast this weekend, respect the power of the ocean, remain vigilant of your surroundings, and avoiding venturing onto exposed coastal features where sudden, powerful waves can put your life at risk."

Last year, eight people lost their lives when rip currents pulled them away from the shore, including 12-year-old Arunay Pruthi of Fremont. He had jumped in to try to help his father and little brother. At places like Ocean Beach, the signs are there for a reason.

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