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Several Long Beach, OC beaches closed due to lightning threat

It may feel muggy and humid like the tropics, but it won’t be a good idea for now to take a trip to the beach.

Several beaches have closed due to the lightning storms hovering over the region, while other beach agencies have plans to keep people from the sand and surf as lightning nears.

Huntington Beach from Beach Boulevard to Seapoint Avenue, as well as the Huntington Harbour public areas and Sunset Beach area, was among the first to close at 8:30 a.m. due to nearby lightning strikes, said Huntington Beach Marine Safety Division Chief Eric Dieterman.

“We thought it was going to be a quick episode, but it keeps rolling through here,” he said.

Lifeguard agencies are working with the National Weather Service to track storms and give assessments on whether to close, he said.

Lifeguards are making announcements on loudspeakers and also closed the pier. Surfers are being advised to stay out of the water.

“We’re not pulling them out, but we are notifying them the beaches are closed,” he said.

Seal Beach Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey closed the county’s northernmost stretch of beach just before 10 a.m., as well as the piers. They were seeing lightning one to three miles from the coast, he said.

Junior guards, as with most other beaches, were sent home due to the beach closure.

State Parks Superintendent Kevin Pearsall said closures of Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach were underway. Crystal Cove’s junior lifeguards were also canceled due to the lightning storms.

“It’s minute by minute,” he said.

Long Beach Marine Safety Chief Gonzalo Medina said their stretch of beach closed at 9:55 a.m. as lightning strikes were seen within the federal breakwater.

“That’s too close for comfort,” he said. “Lifeguards are keeping people out of the water and off the beach.”

He said beaches will most likely open later in the day.

“We anticipate this cell system to pass through in a couple of hours,” Gonzalo said. “We’ll evaluate then about opening everything back up.”

If people are near the beach during a lightning storm, seek shelter and be mindful.

“Even though it’s a low chance, we occasionally do have injuries because of it,” he said. “We just want to keep people safe.”

In 2014, a man was killed in Venice Beach, and 13 others injured, when a lightning storm hit the region.

Newport Beach Marine Safety Capt. Jon Mitchell said each time they see a strike, the close order resets another half an hour before they can get the clear to open. He said weather reports said the storm should clear by 11 a.m., but that was unlikely with the storm clouds he was seeing over the ocean from the lifeguard headquarters.

Despite the warnings, some people still stayed out in the water or continued walking on piers, he said. Lifeguard towers were closed, with guards either heading back to headquarters or waiting in their cars for the clear to go back to the sand.

The junior lifeguard program was also canceled for the day.

“This weather today is super weird,” he said. “We’re just doing our due diligence and making sure we cover our basis. Hopefully we can get open and get everyone back to normal.”

Source: Orange County Register

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