WATCH: Rogue wave slams into Southern California beachgoers; 9 hospitalized

VENTURA, Cali. (KTLA) — Video captured the terrifying moment beachgoers were slammed into by a massive rogue wave in Ventura, California, on Thursday. 

The incident happened as locals were being warned about a massive swell pounding the Southern California coastline this week.

The rogue wave submerged bystanders at Pierpont Beach on Seaward Avenue around 11 a.m. That area has been hit the hardest with what the National Weather Service called “tremendous wave energy.”

A witness, Colin Hoag, captured cell phone video of the explosive wave and shared it with Nexstar’s KTLA. As the waters suddenly flooded an observation zone, both people and vehicles were instantly swept away. Ventura Police shared a similar video, seen in the player above.

Beachgoers were seen frantically running for their lives. The raging waters destroyed the windows of nearby beachfront buildings and hotels on its destructive path.

Nine people were rushed to the hospital by paramedics. Witnesses said several victims suffered broken bones. Two of the victims remain in critical condition on Thursday night.

“It was horrific,” Hoag recalled. “There was a lot of screaming, a lot of yelling. I didn’t know how far [the wave] would go. I thought, ‘This is a tsunami, is what it looks like to me.’”

“I think a lot of lessons were learned today when you look at that video,” said Andy VanSciver from the Ventura County Fire Department. “The importance of heeding the warnings, about giving the ocean some respect.”

Warnings of dangerous high surf and flooding are highest for Ventura County along with Hermosa, Manhattan and Palos Verdes beaches, according to the NWS.

Waves of 10 to 15 feet with sets to 20 feet are expected along the Ventura County coast. A high surf warning and coastal flood warning are in effect from 4 a.m. Thursday to 10 p.m. Saturday. 

Despite the warnings, visitors kept hanging out at the beach and entering the ocean, authorities said. When emergency personnel weren’t dealing with people on land, they were rescuing surfers and swimmers who had unsuccessfully tried to challenge the dangerous waves.

“We ask people to stay out [of the water] because it puts rescuers in harm’s way as well,” explained Capt. Brian McGrath with Ventura County Fire. “The sea, it’s unforgiving and we know what to expect.”

Throughout the week, meteorologists warned communities along the central and Southern California coast about the impending dangers — monster waves, life-threatening rip currents, damaging coastal flooding and significant beach erosion.

The high surf will stick around through late Saturday night as locals begin recovering and rebuilding the damaged beachfront businesses in Ventura.

County firefighters will be patrolling the beaches often over the next few days. Crews will be building a 6 to 8-foot high sand berm stretching a mile long to help protect the beach.

All Ventura County beaches and the Ventura Pier will remain closed at this time.

Public safety officials are asking the public to stay out of the water and maintain a safe distance from the shoreline, especially after the destruction caused by the rogue wave.

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