Huge winter swells spawned by storm activity in the Pacific hammered the Santa Barbara coast Sunday. Several people were rescued after they were swept off the breakwater and into Santa Barbara Harbor, and three of them were hospitalized.
Down the coast, organizers postponed the 25th annual Surf Happens Rincon Classic until March 8-9 because of the blustery conditions.
“The surf was absolutely of epic proportions,” exclaimed photographer Jon Shafer of SantaBarbaraSurfer.com.
At about 3 p.m., several pedestrians on the breakwater sidewalk near Marina 1 were slammed by a huge wave through a railing, across large rocks and into the harbor itself, Waterfront Department officials reported. All were rescued immediately by passers-by, and three of the victims were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage hospital with injuries.
The Harbor Patrol, meanwhile, rescued 20 surfers who tired or got dangerously trapped in the high seas. No significant injuries were reported among the surfers rescued.
With water from the swells pushing up through deck planks on Stearns Wharf, officials closed the wharf to vehicle and pedestrian traffic at 4 p.m. The waves damaged a wharf sewer system, which was quickly secured and will be repaired Monday. Officials closed the breakwater sidewalk at 3:30 p.m.
Santa Barbara police officers and firefighters assisted waterfront staff throughout Sunday, helping coordinate closures and taking measures to protect public safety.
Officials were bracing for high tide at 11 p.m. Sunday, fearing more damage. The public is advised to stay away from beaches and exposed structures near the beach through noon Monday when this series of swells should subside.