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A man walks his dog along the beach early Thursday morning just south of the Newport Beach pier as a king tide erodes the beach and strong winds and cold temperatures moved into Orange County.
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Sand chopped away along the coast


Make sure you watch your step.

Sandy cliffs were created along the Orange County coastline as strong surf combined with a high tide and strong winds carved sand away as winter weather hit Thursday.

Drops as large as 6-8 feet cropped away sand near Balboa Pier as waves in the 4-foot-to-6-foot range hit, with smaller berms created from the storm north of the Newport Pier. Extreme high tide at nearly 7 foot pushed water up the shoreline, while the wind-driven swell created consistent waves that chopped at the sand.

"The waves just hit the beach repeatedly, and moves sand to another location," said Newport Beach Capt. Boyd Mickley, noting the sand is usually pushed back with summer south swells. "It shifts back and forth. It's always moving some place."

Mickley said that although the berms are nice to look at, they can be dangerous for beachgoers who may get stuck between the sandy walls and strong ocean swells. And though it might be tempting to dig a tunnel into the wall, the sand is unstable and can easily collapse onto someone, he said.

With the strong winds, water temperatures are expected to drop from the mid-50s to low-50s, a process called "upwelling" as colder water is churned up from below the ocean's surface.

Up the coast in Sunset Beach, workers and homeowners were on alert as some of the highest tides of the year – nicknamed "king tides" – hit early morning. Last December, the high tides caused a big mess as the water flooded into homes, along with the closing of Pacific Coast Highway during morning rush hour.

Though there was no major flooding Thursday, runoff from rain to the coast, strong surf, and the peak of the high tide Friday will continue to keep Sunset residents on alert.

Contact the writer: Lconnelly@ocregister.com

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