Weather forecasters warned Friday that higher surf and stronger rip currents are coming to Orange County and other south-facing beaches, increasing the danger for hordes of visitors expected during the Fourth of July weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a Beach Hazards Statement effective Saturday morning through Tuesday evening.

Surf of three to five feet is expected, with the highest on south-facing beaches.

“Strong rip and longshore currents will create dangerous swimming conditions,” the NWS said. “Larger waves can wash people off rocks and jetties.”

The waves could hit six to 10 feet at The Wedge in Newport Beach, said Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brian O’Rourke. Those conditions are only safe for swimmers and body boarders with experience, he said.

But O’Rourke said he worries about the majority of beachgoers who think just because they are strong swimmers in a pool, they will be safe in the ocean. “They don’t know about rip currents. They struggle, fight and become exhausted, he said. “Panic is also a problem.”

Anyone who goes into the ocean is urged to swim in front of a staffed lifeguard tower and check in with the lifeguard about current conditions, O’Rourke said. Almost all lifeguard towers are likely to be staffed.

The proper technique for escaping a rip current is to swim sideways or parallel to the shore rather than attempting to swim directly to shore, he explained.

Swimmers in distress should wave their arms and a lifeguard will respond, he said.

He noted lifeguards enjoy talking to visitors about water safety. “We want everybody to enjoy the beach and come back.”

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