Huge waves hit the Balboa Peninsula with weekend flooding on July 4

The sun rose in Newport Beach, the sky was clear on the eve of July 4 when Bruce Ogilvie dropped into the sand. But something, he said, felt wrong.

A lifeguard had chased him out of his usual place, which seemed puzzling at the time, but then Ogilvie saw the guard run into the water and save two girls caught in a tide. This was not the first rescue of the day, Ogilvie realized, and the guard needed the cleared area to run as fast as possible into the rough ocean.

In retrospect, he said, “I should have realized, ‘Hey, something bad is going to happen.'”

At 6 p.m. that afternoon, huge waves were rising over the Balboa Pier and inundating the Balboa Peninsula, an idyllic waterfront community in Orange County that has increasingly struggled with rising water levels. sea. This thin strip of land is all that stands between the ocean and the bay, the first line of defense for the rest of the Newport Beach coastline.

There was no sand berm large enough to protect this sudden gap, and residents said there was little warning, except for the full moon that generated extremely high tides and a raging swell that grew larger and larger.

“It was a kind of triple witchcraft effect,” said Ogilvie, who noted that due to high tide, the peninsula’s gate and valves were closed and could not allow any drainage into the bay.

City officials were stunned by the intensity of the ocean. A lifeguard said he couldn’t help but think about a tsunami: Big waves aren’t unusual for Newport Beach, known for epic surf spots like Wedge, but what surprised him on Friday was how each wave didn’t break or dissipate. Each wave seemed to accumulate on top of the next, moving a large wave higher and higher on the beach until it reached and eroded the sand that had been standing as protection.

“It came unexpectedly early and unexpectedly big … It hit just at high tide,” said Mike Halphide, the chief lifeguard for the Newport Beach Fire Department. His team that day rescued 100 people in total and avoided more than 2,500 other incidents by warning people that they were about to put themselves in danger.

John Pope, the city’s public information officer, said additional equipment and machines have been deployed to aggressively build a new, larger and higher sand barrier before the next high tide. “We were expecting high surf: the forecast was about 5 to 7 feet and up to 20 feet on the Wedge, but it was such an unusual confluence of ocean activity,” he said.

Water accumulated in the beach parking lot, submerging the cars on their wheels and covering the pavement with mud, trash and foam. More seawater rushed past the junior lifeguard training station, crossed the soccer field, and reached Ogilvie Street and the homes and entrances of its neighbors.

Cars and bicyclists tried to get out of the flood as pedestrians waded through the calf-length waters. The dramatic news helicopter video showed a 40-foot sailboat hit by raging waves and lime. Several people and a dog on board had been rescued shortly before the water destroyed everything, according to KABC-TV.

Halphide said an experienced lifeguard had been transported to the hospital before conducting consecutive rescues. After the first rescue, the guard immediately came back out and had to carry another person across the pier, where waves six to eight feet high hit the pillars.

“By the time he brought the victim to shore, he was so exhausted and almost collapsed,” said Halphide.

“Seriously folks, please be careful with the water this weekend,” Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill wrote on Twitter, along with photos of the wrecked sailboat landing ashore. “We weren’t kidding when we said this weekend was raising public safety issues.”

By Saturday morning, the sand tractors greeted the bathers and those who gasped at the scene. Several cars were still stuck in the mud, and the heavy machinery roared and beeped as the teams rushed to build a much larger sand berm. The floods also dumped a large amount of trash and debris, which authorities say can take up to a week to clean up.

Tita Jaramilla, dressed from head to toe in red, white and blue, jogged with three friends and greeted people with smiles and a cheery “Happy room!” Every year, she and her friends celebrate the holidays in some way, and this year was no different.

With so many activities and large gatherings and events canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, he said, “We thought we would have our own little parade this year.”

On the morning of July 4, Tita Jaramillo runs on Balboa Pier dressed in red, white, and blue.

On the morning of July 4, Tita Jaramillo runs on Balboa Pier dressed in red, white, and blue.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

They had planned to run six miles, a 10k July 4, but the flood forced them to redirect and run another six, nearly seven miles. She was a little out of breath for mile 13, but she said spending the morning this way meant a lot to her.

“As is our society, with everything so backwards, I think people have forgotten how much they love our country,” he said. “I have not done it. I come from a military family. My dad fought in Vietnam and made sure we have the freedoms we have now … We are not going to celebrate today. “

As for Ogilvie, he spent much of the Fourth of July searching for sandbags and removing mud and debris from his patio and driveway. His house was saved from the water, he said, but his neighbor’s house across the street is on lower ground and had about an inch of water inside.

He recalled waiting for the city to come help pump the flood, as he and his neighbors stayed up late and tried to clean up the mess. “The first pump they brought was not big enough, they had to get another pump, and then at some point they just put it together, praying, hoping that the waves would stop coming and the tide would come back down and they could open up. the drains rise again so that the water drains into the ocean. “

Ogilvie watched the cleanup and construction crews on Saturday morning and hoped that the largest sand berm would be completed on time. High tide is expected to rise again to 6.5 feet at 9:06 pm on Saturday and 6.3 feet at 9:47 pm on Sunday.

“They need to pile up sand and create a wall, a barrier, so when the waves break and come in, the water cannot go through and go to the soccer field,” he said. “Once it crosses and goes to the soccer field, it hoses us.”