Warning on dangerous conditions at beaches

  • A California State Park's ranger watches as a woman runs from the surf at Wright's Beach, Saturday Nov. 7, 2009 north of Bodega Bay. She was told not to get to close to the water because of the high surf.(Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009

Abalone divers and other beachgoers are urged to use caution in the waters along the coast on Sunday because of strong waves and currents that could pull swimmers out to sea, according to a warning issued by the National Weather Service.

A storm off the Pacific Coast is expected to produce fast, long-period swells that will increase the threat of sneaker waves and rip currents, especially on beaches that face west and northwest.

Saturday and today mark the first weekend of the recreational abalone season, which began Tuesday.

Sneaker waves are unanticipated waves that are higher than preceding waves, while rip currents are powerful, narrow currents of water that flow out to sea. The presence of both mean swimmers can be overwhelmed by a surprise large wave and then dragged underneath by the strong current.

"The threat is for all day on Sunday," said Will Pie, a meteorologist with the weather service in Monterey. "They can be extremely dangerous."

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