12/02/2012 11:27 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2013

High Surf In Ventura County, Calif. Draws Crowds

Planning and collaboration between several public safety agencies throughout Ventura County have kept the need for ocean rescues to a minimum over the past few days of high surf at local beaches, officials said Saturday.

A strong low-pressure system that began in the Gulf of Alaska several days ago, as well as several smaller storms, have produced swells at west-facing beaches in the county, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Ventura Harbor Patrol officer John Higgins said the National Weather Service, harbor patrols, firefighters and state lifeguards have coordinated efforts to bring awareness to beachgoers about hazardous conditions. As a result, there have been no local ocean rescue calls over the past three days, he said.

The patrol did respond to a call for assistance when a dog swimming in the harbor would not return to its owners' calls. The dog was rescued and brought safely back to its owner, authorities said.

Higgins and Ventura Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Hill said over the past 10 years, the Ventura County Ocean Rescue Program -- made up of Ventura city and county firefighters, Oxnard firefighters, state lifeguards, and the Ventura and Channel Islands harbor patrols -- have worked together to coordinate a system that allows them to respond efficiently to the smallest to biggest rescue calls.

"The hard work we did years ago has paid off," Higgins said.

Higgins credited the National Weather Service for contributing to warning the public well in advance of the high-surf warning.

The warning took effect Thursday morning, but a heads-up about the conditions was relayed to law enforcement agencies and firefighters on Tuesday, said Scott Sukup, a meteorologist with the federal agency.

"I think we had a pretty good lead time," Sukup said.

Between 40 and 50 sightseers visited Ventura beaches to watch the waves reach 10 to 12 feet on Saturday, Higgins said.

"Today was the busiest of all the days," Higgins said Saturday afternoon.

By contacting people individually or through public service announcements, patrol officers have been able to warn people getting close to the water the dangers of the conditions.

"Everybody comes to the ocean to see its power," Higgins said. "A lot of them don't understand the importance of staying safe."

Officials recommended that harbor visitors stay away from the edge of the water and keep their animals on a leash. Officers also said boaters should closely monitor weather and marine advisories for updates on hazardous conditions.

The harbor patrol or Coast Guard should be contacted before boats enter or depart harbor entrances, authorities said.

At Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, patrol officer Dan Smock said not only had there been no rescue calls over the past few days, but there also had been very few boats on the water.

"We haven't really had any issues," Smock said.

After peaking Saturday, the swells were expected to subside in the evening and into Sunday morning, Sukup said. Another cold front will move into the area Sunday afternoon and into the night, causing a quarter to half an inch of rain to fall, he said.

The weather is expected to begin clearing Monday, bringing partly to mostly sunny weather to the county, Sukup said. Temperatures will reach the 70s, he said.

According to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, Ventura City Hall received 0.03 inch of rain from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Other rain totals included 0.07 inch at Oxnard, 0.10 inch at the Camarillo Airport, 0.16 inch at Grand Street in Fillmore, 0.08 inch in Ojai, and 0.04 inch at Sycamore Canyon Dam and Thousand Oaks. ___

(c)2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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