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Storms Marie, Cristobal Kick Up Heavy Surf Along Coasts

Powerful storms in the Atlantic and the Pacific were steering away from land but were kicking up dangerous surfs and rip currents, closing beaches and ports — and drawing hundreds of surfers who ignored warnings to stay out of the churning cascades of water.

Surf and dangerous beach warnings were issued along both U.S. coasts. At 5 p.m. ET, Tropical Storm Marie was about 950 miles west of southern Baja California in Mexico and was moving west-northwest at about 15 mph, while across the country, Hurricane Cristobal was 385 miles west of Bermuda and was moving north-northeast at 15 mph.

After four days as a hurricane, Marie was downgraded Wednesday afternoon, but it continued to spin off monster waves that attracted surfers and surfing spectators by the hundreds to the beaches of Southern California, despite forecasters' pleas to "stay out of the water for your own safety." They particularly flocked to the famous Wedge in Newport Beach, where surfers told NBC News the surf was the biggest they'd seen in years — but "I was hoping it would be bigger," one said.

Such storms this time of year are "extremely rare," Orange County fire Capt. Steve Concialdi said: "During the winter, we get significant storms here. But this is the first time in over 25 years we have ever had a summer storm like this."

The storms have been blamed for four deaths. Before Cristobal strengthened into a hurricane Monday, it killed at least three people who were swept away by rivers on the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Meanwhile, a surfer was killed by strong waves near Surfrider Beach in Malibu, California, on Tuesday morning, Los Angeles County Lifeguard Capt. Tim McNulty said.

By M. Alex Johnson, NBC News

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