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News Briefs II

Southern California Beach Study Warns of Runoff Hazard

Los Angeles Times -- Los Angeles

An unprecedented scientific study of Southern California’s ocean waters suggests that 95 percent of the shoreline meets health standards for swimmers in summertime but that some trouble spots persist even when it has not rained for months.

Excessive bacteria counts were found at the mouths of rivers and storm water channels in well over half the tests at such sites.

The scientists did not specifically name the sites that failed. But other testing has revealed persistent problems with storm drains and channels at many of the region’s most popular swimming and surfing areas, including Malibu Creek, the Santa Monica Pier, the San Gabriel River in Seal Beach, the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach and Main Beach and Aliso Creek in Laguna Beach.

The findings support the warning that Los Angeles and Orange County health officials have issued in recent years: Avoid swimming at beaches near channels and rivers -- roughly 100 yards from the mouth. The study emphasizes that the advice applies even during dry weather.

Unparalleled in scope, the study provides a snapshot of bacterial levels along the entire 690-mile coastline from Point Conception north of Santa Barbara to Ensenada, Mexico -- encompassing five California counties and northern Baja California.

Because summertime is the prime season, the overall findings may reassure beachgoers and public health officials, especially in Los Angeles County, where many people fear getting sick if they swim in the ocean.

Forecaster Predicts Big Hurricanes

NEWSDAY -- Atmospheric conditions are ripe and will stay ripe produce a very active hurricane season this year, a team that specializes in seasonal forecasting predicted Thursday.

Based on what is known about the origin and growth of tropical storms, and the influence of high-altitude winds, forecaster William Gray predicted 14 tropical storms this year, nine of which his team believes may intensify into hurricanes, with four becoming intense storms with winds topping 111 mph.

Thus the 1999 hurricane season, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, may echo last year’s experience, with 14 large tropical storms, 10 hurricanes and an additional intense storm, Gray’s report stated.

Historically, and on average, there have been 10 named tropical storms, six hurricanes, and two intense hurricanes every year, with slight annual variations.

Gray and his method have their critics. Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla., noted that hurricane prediction is so iffy that his center doesn’t even make such forecasts.