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Rogue wave hits southern California beachgoers; 9 hospitalized

Vivian Chow and Chris Wolfe

18 minutes ago

Video captured the terrifying moment in which beachgoers were hit by a huge rogue wave in Ventura on Thursday.

The incident occurred as residents were warned of massive swells hitting the Southern California coast this week.


The rogue wave overwhelmed passersby at Pierpont Beach on Seaward Avenue around 11 a.m. This area was hit hardest by what the National Weather Service called “tremendous wave energy.”

A witness, Colin Hoag, captured video of the explosive wave on his cell phone. When waters suddenly flooded an observation area, people and vehicles were immediately swept away.

Beachgoers were seen running frantically for their lives. The raging waters destroyed windows of nearby seaside buildings and hotels during their destructive path.

Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Colin Hoag)
Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Ventura Police Department)
Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Ventura Police Department)
Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Colin Hoag)
Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Duke's Ventura)
Video captured the moment beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.
Video captured the calm moments before beachgoers were hit by a massive rogue wave in Ventura County on Dec. 28, 2023, sending nine people to the hospital.  (Colin Hoag)

Nine people were taken to hospital by emergency services. Witnesses said several victims suffered broken bones. Two of the victims remained in critical condition Thursday evening.

“It was horrible,” Hoag recalled. “There was a lot of screaming, a lot of screaming. I didn’t know how far [the wave] would go. I said to myself, “It’s a tsunami, that’s what I’m thinking.” »

“I think a lot of lessons were learned today when you watch that video,” said Andy VanSciver with the Ventura County Fire Department. “The importance of heeding the warnings and giving some respect to the ocean.”

Dangerous surf and flooding warnings are highest in Ventura County as well as the beaches of Hermosa, Manhattan and Palos Verdes, according to the NWS.

Waves of 10 to 15 feet with runs up to 20 feet are expected along the Ventura County coast. A high surf warning and a coastal flood warning are in effect from 4 a.m. Thursday until 10 p.m. Saturday.

Despite warnings, visitors continued to hang out on the beach and enter the ocean, authorities said. When emergency workers weren’t tending to people on land, they were rescuing surfers and swimmers who had tried in vain to challenge the dangerous waves.

“We are asking people to stay outside [of the water] because it also puts rescuers in danger,” said Captain Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department. “The sea is unforgiving and you know what to expect. »

Throughout the week, meteorologists warned communities along California’s central and southern coast of impending dangers: monster waves, life-threatening rip currents, devastating coastal flooding and significant beach erosion.

High surf will persist through Saturday evening as residents begin to recover and rebuild damaged oceanfront businesses in Ventura.

County firefighters will be patrolling the beaches regularly over the next few days. Crews will build a 6- to 8-foot-high sand berm stretching a mile long to help protect the beach.

All Ventura County beaches and the Ventura Pier will remain closed at this time.

Public safety officials are asking the population to stay out of the water and maintain a safe distance from the shore, especially after the destruction caused by the rogue wave.

Footage of the wave can be seen in the video player above.

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