A combination of high tides and violent surf Friday night on the Balboa Peninsula flooded homes, reduced a sailboat to splinters and prompted several near-death rescues offshore, according to authorities.
The flooding was centered near A Street and East Balboa Boulevard, said Newport Beach police Sgt. Steve Oberon.
The flooding was about knee deep and had reached three blocks inland.
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The swell showed up fast and strong.
In addition to street flooding, the big waves and extreme high tide also flooded the beach parking lot near the Balboa Pier. Lifeguards scrambled through the day with several dangerous rescues.
“All three rescue boats were very busy with several near-death rescues that occurred,” said Newport Beach Lifeguard Skeeter Leeper.
Police were spotted pumping water near Main Street, and witnesses reported that a house near Lifeguard Tower P had flooded. A couple in a golf cart handed out water bottles to people stuck in their cars. A large sailboat that washed ashore at Coronado Street was in splinters, said witness Diane Edmunds.
— Mayor Will O’Neill (@MayorONeill) July 4, 2020
The swell, the biggest of the year so far, was expected to build on Friday but showed up in force. The waves should be even bigger on Saturday, July 4.
Diane Edmonds, a photographer who was out shooting the Wedge, was stuck in traffic for more than an hour, waiting with her car turned off with a line of others as traffic stopped on Friday evening. “Water came up like a lake, that lake turned into a river. The whole pathway was just like a river.”
Edmonds said the water was flowing up from the Newport Harbor, flowing over breakwalls into the streets, and was also coming from the ocean side.
She watched a bulldozer head toward the Wedge, likely to build a berm to protect houses. Some people said a lifeguard tower had been destroyed by waves. Edmonds said the waves were so strong, beachfront houses were getting slammed, something she’s never seen in her years shooting the Wedge.
“Water was going up to houses, big lakes everywhere. A full-on river flowed out to the road and down the streets around Wedge,” she said. “As we left the beach, there was a river of shoes all along the path to Wedge and all the way down the street. I was trying to grab them and match up pairs for anyone looking.”
The area is prone to flooding when big waves combine with an extreme high tide, which reached 6.7 feet at 8:33 p.m. Waves are expected to be even greater on Saturday, reaching up to 20 feet at the Wedge, with a 6.6-foot tide at 9:15 p.m.
“It’s going to be worse tomorrow night, it’s higher tide. The swell didn’t even peak yet, I can’t image what tomorrow will be like,” she said.
The last time Newport Beach flooded from high tide and big surf was July 12, 2018. However, it was less severe than what the Balboa Peninsula endured Friday, witnesses said.
The beach is shut down for the Fourth of July as well as on Sunday, July 5, a decision local officials made after other Southern California beaches started announcing closures earlier in the week. They feared crowds would flood into Newport Beach during the big swell, and worry heightened after two lifeguards tested positive for coronavirus and several others were forced into quarantine.
Capistrano Beach in Dana Point also was getting battered by the big waves. A concrete beam across the end of the parking lot was broken, said Toni Nelson, who heads a community group called Capo Cares.
“Mother Nature just eating up our parking lot,” she said. “The county has red-marked much of the remaining sidewalk at Capo. It’s broken and undermined and they need to remove it so people don’t get hurt. It’s just so sad to see our little beach disappearing.”
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