Newport Beach

Large Crowds Expected Again as High Surf Pounds Orange County Beaches

Lifeguards rescued more than 70 people along the Wedge in Newport Beach Wednesday as strong surf attracted thousands of spectators, creating traffic headaches and parking problems in the area.

City officials were expecting large crowds once again Thursday, with traffic delays reaching up to two hours or more in the area. Visitors were urged by city officials to not drive to the peninsula.

"Typically our busiest days are when the swell is in that 3 to 5 or 6 to 8 foot range," said Asst. Chief of Newport Beach Lifeguards, Rob Williams. "People have the confidence that they can go in and handle the surf. Really, they should not be doing that."

One of those people is Kevin "Mel" Thoman, who said he had to get out to the beach today.

"It's so addicting, I don't know how else to explain it," Thoman said. "It's about fun, whatever your passion is."

Waves were expected to gradually decrease into the weekend, but large sets reaching up to 10 feet -- higher near The Wedge -- were still possible for Thursday.

Officers would be on scene to keep traffic moving.

On Wednesday, lifeguards made 73 rescues and 8,000 preventative actions in Newport Beach. More than 170 rescue operations were recorded in Los Angeles County on the same day.

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