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Men swept into the sea as Hurricane Linda takes parting shot

September 15, 1997

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Hurricane Linda was downgraded to a tropical storm today as waves up to 16 feet high pounded the California coast, where high surf swept five men off the shore. One of the five remained hospitalized today in critical condition.

Linda, described as a potentially dangerous threat to California just three days ago, was downgraded today after its maximum sustained wind speed dwindled to 65 mph, the National Weather Service said. Hurricanes have sustained wind of at least 74 mph.

Heavy surf warnings remain in effect through Tuesday although the storm was drifting westward about 760 miles south-southwest of San Diego, the National Weather Service said.

Waves battering south-facing beaches averaged 8 feet high, with some 16-foot breakers sweeping over jetties.

Scattered showers fed by the storm’s moisture dampened Southern California today, helping contain a forest fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. And a few thunderstorms were scattered from east of San Diego across Arizona and the southern tip of Nevada into Utah.

Linda once was the most powerful hurricane on record in the northeastern Pacific, generating wind gusts to 220 mph.

The five men swept off shore on Sunday had been among hundreds of people gathered on Newport Beach’s narrow jetty to watch the waves, police said. Newport Beach is about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The men were rescued by boaters about 300 yards offshore on Sunday, said Harbor Patrol Sgt. Paul Falk. One remained hospitalized today in critical condition; the others were released.

Because of the high surf, seven miles of protective sand berms had been piled up on Los Angeles-area beaches, and sandbags were stacked along boardwalks, bike paths, access ramps and buildings.

``We’d rather be prepared like this than try to do it afterward,″ said Wayne Schumaker, chief of facilities for Los Angeles County. ``Once the storm hits onshore, because of the erosion, we don’t have the sand to work with to construct these berms.″