A lifeguard jumped from a pier Wednesday morning into high surf to rescue a swimmer who was caught in the water off an Orange County beach community that was slammed overnight by a storm surge generated by Hurricane Marie.
The lifeguard jumped from the middle of a pier off Seal Beach and swam through pounding surf to reach the swimmer, identified as a man in his 60s, according to police. The lifeguard responded after he was notified by a surfer that the man was in distress.
"He jumped off the pier and very heroically saved the individual," said Seal Beach Police Chief Joseph Stilinovich, who estimated the lifeguard covered "several hundred yards" to reach the swimmer. "I want to emphasize, that lifeguard is a hero,"
Water conditions were too rough for department personnel to reach the swimmer with a boat or personal watercraft, Stilinovich said.
"The lifeguard swam the individual to the end of the pier, where we threw a paddle board off," said Stilinovich.
The lifeguard used the paddleboard to help the man to calmer waters about a half-mile from the pier. The man was speaking with lifeguards back on shore and did not appear to have suffered serious injuries.
Waves continued to slam the swimmer and lifeguards as they walked along the shoreline during a day of heavy surf that brought crowds of big wave spectators to the Southern California coast.
The powerful waves prompted the partial closure of the Seal Beach pier Wednesday morning, keeping onlookers at a safe distance.
"It is unbelievable!" said Pat Cesario, a longtime Seal Beach resident.
A storm surge powered by Hurricane Marie sent water into oceanfront streets and flooded garages Tuesday night in Seal Beach.
Rising seawater cleared a wall along East Seal Way and flowed toward beach homes. Residents reported water in garages, carports and ground floors of apartments.
"At 10 o'clock we went to bed," said Blanca Brown who said she woke up an hour later to water pouring into her home.
"The water was one foot. It was deep, it was so deep it was unbelievable," she said. Carpet, pictures and furniture were damaged.
"A large surge came through this area," said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. "Basically, it flooded the entire area. Water was up to 2 to 3 feet above the boardwalk -- going up into doorways, getting into homes, getting into garages."
While the high tide was expected, Concialdi said the power of the storm surge caught the city and lifeguards off guard.
The 6 foot berm that was completed by 10 a.m. Wednesday morning was expected to hold as high tide was expected to peak again at 11 p.m. Wednesday evening, according to officials.
About 1,000 sandbags were in place Wednesday morning. About 5,000 more sandbags are on the way, Concialdi said.
Emergency crews were deployed Wednesday morning as residents prepared for another powerful southern swell.
Crews used a bulldozer Wednesday morning to build up a sand berm from the pier to 14th Street before high tide, scheduled for 10:55 a.m.
As for the water that already reached the shore, workers are digging a channel designed to allow that water to drain back into the ocean.
Significant wave heights and dangerous surf are expected again Wednesday along the Southern California coast. According to the National Weather Service, the areas most likely affected by the swells are the peninsula cities including Long Beach, Cabrillo Beach and Point Fermin; Malibu and Zuma beaches; and Port Hueneme, Point Mugu, Oxnard Shores and County line in Ventura County.
High surf advisories remain in effect for LA, Orange and Ventura counties.
Hetty Chang contributed to this report.