Hurricane Marie and Coastal Erosion and Flooding

Surf from Hurricane Marie, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Southern California like a bomb on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 26 and through Thursday August 28. While the focus of the swell was in Orange and LA Counties, beaches in Baja and San Diego County experienced large surf and coastal erosion as well.

Hurricane Marie--a monster storm.

Hurricane Marie–a monster storm.

The Eastern Pacific has seen a very intense and early Hurricane season this year. The reason is extremely warm water around Baja California and Mexico’s Pacific Coastline. You can see the elevated water temps in red in this excellent map below.

Areas with elevated water temps are in red.

Areas with elevated water temps are in red.

As the surf filled in on Wednesday the 27th coastal flooding occurred in Seal Beach and at Pt. Mugu State Beach in Los Angeles County. Homes were impacted in Seal Beach and a historic lifeguard station was destroyed at Pt. Mugu. There was also damage from high waves on Catalina Island.

From the LA Times:

The massive surf sent the historic Cove House training building crumbling to the shore at Point Mugu State Park. It washed away a 25-foot section of breakwater protecting the Anaheim Bay in Seal Beach. Pilings at the Malibu Pier were swept into the ocean, and cargo operations had to be temporarily halted at the Port of Long Beach on Wednesday.

On Catalina Island, the waves “essentially destroyed” White’s Landing Pier and another pier at Camp Fox, said Bob Reid, a spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy. The ocean was so clouded with debris and silt Thursday that one of the island’s famed glass-bottom boat tours became a sightseeing outing instead.

 

Surf damage on Catalina Islands.

Surf damage on Catalina Islands. Photo: LA Times.

Damage on Catalina. Photo: LA Times

Damage on Catalina. Photo: LA Times

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Damage on Catalina. Source LA Times

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The historic lifeguard headquarters at Pt. Mugu State Beach was destroyed by large waves and coastal flooding.

The historic lifeguard headquarters at Pt. Mugu State Beach was destroyed by large waves and coastal flooding. Photo: LA Times.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

In Imperial Beach where I live the waves weren’t so large (the storm was focusing wave energy further north) but the strong surf and current resulted in significant coastal erosion. Here are images of the southern end of the beach where there was more erosion that at any time over the past two years.

Berm caused by coastal erosion on August 27, 2014 at the south end of Imperial beach looking northward.

Berm caused by coastal erosion on August 27, 2014 at the south end of Imperial beach looking northward.

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Erosion at the south end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach on August 28, 2014 looking southward toward the mouth of the Tijuana River. This area is a State of California Marine Protected Area as well as fronts the Tijuana Estuary NOAA/FWS Reserve.

Here is a photo of the surf in Imperial Beach by JC Monje that shows the strong swell and why the current and also sand is moving northward. Hurricane swells create a very long longshore current that takes sand from the southern part of the beach and transports it northward where it over time it can end up in Coronado.

Imperial Beach just as Hurricane Marie started hitting on the late afternoon of Tuesday August 26, 2014. Photo: JC Monje

Imperial Beach just as Hurricane Marie started hitting on the late afternoon of Tuesday August 26, 2014. Photo: JC Monje

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Comments

  1. Warmer water, bigger storms, climate change? Nah. If we admit it was, then we would have to do something about it. So far, the nah’s win.

  2. Whether or not this is El Nino or climate change or both remains to be seen. We have had warm water in the past like this. What is true is that we are seeing conditions and impacts that we haven’t seen before or even recently (e.g. coastal flooding like this in summer). And the fact is that the climate is changing and it is human-related. However, we need to be careful about attributing every weather event solely to climate change.

    It would be fascinating to see if we could document sea level rise over past 25 years and see if we can correlate that to storm damage. One thing is sure–we are going to see more and more of these events in the future. And it looks to me like we are not prepared.
    \

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