Not-So-Summery Kickoff to Memorial Day Weekend in SoCal

Riptides, high surf, gusty winds, fire warnings, even snow: Is this holiday weather?

Memorial Day weekend – traditionally thought of as the unofficial beginning of summer –
is bringing Southern California some not-so-summery weather.

The National Weather Service on Saturday morning issued a hazardous weather outlook for Southern California, with gusty winds expected – up to 45 mph in the Antelope Valley. There was even some snow in the mountains near Big Bear Lake Saturday morning.

The winds will affect the ocean, of course, and beachgoers were advised to watch out for strong rip currents, which are expected along Southern California beaches being pounded by high surf.

"We are anticipating some dangerous rip currents … that pull (swimmers) out to sea," said Jeff Horn with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "People who fight against them generally get tired out and then we have to go rescue them."

When caught in a rip current or rip tide, many swimmers try to paddle back to shore, but lifeguards said to do the opposite. A riptide is like a river going out to sea, so beachgoers have to swim past that river – parallel to the shore – and then swim to the sand.

The winds also prompted a small craft advisory for oceangoers, meaning winds of 21 to 33 knots could produce hazardous conditions for small vessels.

In the Antelope Valley and in deserts, there's a wind advisory in effect through Sunday, with difficult driving conditions expected. The gusts are expected to dissipate Sunday, and temperatures are expected to warm to more normal levels over Sunday and into the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

Low clouds and fog will be coming in well inland overnight Saturday, but should burn off by morning Sunday, NBC4's Carl Bell said.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was warning Saturday of increasing fire danger across the state.

Cal Fire crews have already responded to more than twice as many fires in 2012 as at the same time last year, the department said in a press release.

"Recent fire activity including a 7,000 acre fire just over the border in Nevada, really serves as a reminder that the conditions are ripe for wildfires," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire.

The department asked Californians to be "extra vigilant" during outdoor recreation over the holiday weekend, making sure to clear an area used for any campfires – and to get necessary permits for such fires. Campfires should eb completely extinguished before leaving.

The department also noted that drowning is the leading cause of death among children under 14 during Memorial Day weekend in California. Wear a life jacket, don't swim along, and always have children supervised, the department advised. 

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Contact Us