When a portion of the street near Midway Drive and Barnett Avenue in the Midway district flooded at the end of November, San Diego police moved quickly to rule out the usual flooding suspect: a broken water main.
The flooding, police said, was the result of a high ocean tide surging into the storm drain system.
On the morning of Dec. 23, the tide flowed over the beach at La Jolla shores, crested the seawall and flooded the boardwalk and parking lot. The next day, waves created by the incoming king tide badly damaged the famous surfer shack at Windansea Beach.
They are so-called “king tides,” the highest tides of the year. They’re a predictable phenomenon that typically happens throughout the November-February winter season; the next such tide is expected to arrive the week of Jan. 21.
But the water is reaching farther into San Diego than ever before. In late November, the swells reached historic heights.
Local scientists say the king tides are getting more severe and causing flooding more often. It could be a harbinger of a much larger problem: rising sea levels due to climate change.
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This happens every 20-30 years in San Diego. The Global Warming-sky-is-falling people simply have short memories. Waves punched through the window in the Marine Room in La Jolla in the 1982-83 storms. It will happen again... totally normal
@William Charles Mr Charles,
In preparation for this article, I read through about 300 pages of scientific data from multiple sources, including two federal agencies (NASA and the NOAA). I spoke to multiple experts, many of whom I omitted from this piece solely because their contributions were ultimately redundant. On the VOSD podcast, Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts go deeper with one of my sources. You might consider giving that a listen.
As I linked to within the piece, the NOAA has an online tool that allows users to chart and interact with the data gathered from tide stations along both coasts of the USA and the Caribbean. All of the recorded information is publicly available. Even to a layperson such as myself, it's very obvious that sea levels are rising over time, and that they aren't receding. That tool is here, if you'd like to try it for yourself: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/stations.html?type=Water+Levels
As I reported, the November king tide broke the previous high tide record by almost a foot; December's came very close to breaking that, and January's will likely be comparable. When high tides occur is predictable, and not influenced by human behavior. How hey they will be, however, is no longer within our ability to accurately predict.
During the coarse of my investigation, I also when looking for alternate, credible, theories as to why this this happening, and I wasn't able to find a single one. If you have one, I'd be curious to hear it.
Thanks for a timely and educational report.
City leaders need to look outside of the region for ideas on managing inevitable coastal flooding. There are other communities dealing with this, and their experience could be helpful.
Here is one report from across the country that describes how Miami's property values are being impacted, and how residents are in a certain level of denial, or at least, misunderstanding about the source of the water in their front yards, parking lots etc.:
One suggestion for our water-starved city: implement programs and infrastructure to capture/retain stormwater runoff, instead of directing it to the coast and flooding low-lying communities as the tides push in.
I'd rather see a billion dollars put into this local water resource vs. the "PureWater" effort to treat imported water for reclamation, after paying to have it pumped here from the Colorado River or northern delta. What happens when those far-off sources are not available?
In this regard, Los Angeles is far ahead of us, thanks to an organization called TreePeople. They have developed a comprehensive stormwater plan in partnership with the city and other organizations.
More information is here:
Finally, the new Climate Action Plan needs to include some component to respond to these tidal changes, in addition to actions to prevent more changes in the not-so distant future.
@lorisaldana Really?? You want us to copy a group called the "Tree People" LOL
Use to be more sand as a buffer along the coast. The erosion over the decades has reduced or removed this buffer.
There is more to this than "climate change"
Mr. Giffin: Agree, but that is a different circumstance than described here. The problem in some of these bluff areas is that there is indeed less sand (due to armoring, home protection, and other reasons). However, La Jolla Shores is not in that circumstance (i.e. no bluffs). I would note also that the article mentions that the shack at Wind an Sea was damaged, which doesn't mean much. It was damaged/destroyed in 82-83 and I think in 97-98. Winter ended and they rebuilt it. In fact, I intervened to ensure that they didn't have to get a building permit. Pretty funny actually.
Mr. Giffin: Having worked as a lifeguard at La Jolla Shores during the 82-83 El Nino and overseeing all the City of SD beaches during the 97-98 El Nino, I can advise that the sand levels were much lower in those years than they are presently. La Jolla Shores went down to cobbles for a significant part of the earlier El Nino and thereafter. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach had to be replenished and that replenished sand has mostly stayed up to now. Oddly enough, as the sand went down at Mission Beach, for example, there was less flooding of the boardwalk because the incoming waves hit the seawall, whereas when the sand levels were higher, it was something of a ramp for the incoming surf.
Coastline has changed. Was up at beacons in Leucadia a few weeks back where I surfed in the 60-70s. bluff goes right to the parking areas now. same thing with cardiff and seaside. The ocean erodes the coast over time.
Mr. Giffin: You're right, coastal erosion is a natural, and normally gradual process. But rising sea levels means higher, stronger tides and wave activity, which in turn means heavier, faster erosion of the beaches and the bluffs. It's not an either/or relationship, it's multiple symptoms of the same disease.
@Chris Brewster I was a carpenter during the 82-83 El Niño, building the Pacific Beach post office on the site of the old "Roxy" theatre.
When those massive storms flooded the job site, I still had to report to work to check in. I then drove 2 blocks to sit in my car and watch the Crystal Pier get battered- it lost a lot of timber out of the distal end that year. Seeing waves crest over the end of the pier was an image I'll never forget.
That wasn't the only old pier damaged in So Cal that day. As the NYTimes reported: (http://www.nytimes.com/1983/01/29/us/california-coast-hit-by-4th-storm-amid-a-clean-up.html)
"Three historic piers suffered heavy damage Thursday from pounding surf and winds. A 100-foot section from the end of the Santa Monica Municipal Pier crumbled into the ocean. Santa Monica officials announced they would press ahead with a planned $1.7 million restoration project.
"In San Diego, about 150 feet from the 1,000-foot Crystal Pier were washed away, and 200 feet collapsed in the middle of the Seal Beach pier in the northern part of Orange County."
So hold on kids: we ain't seen nothin' yet.
I had just arrived in San Diego in December 1982 and was sleeping on my friends' floor in the See the Sea condos. I was awakened in the early AM and didn't know what by... until I went outside! What a welcome El Nino gave me that winter!
@Kathy S Was this yesterday? The Amtrak trains were stopped and delayed because tracks were buried under water yesterday. Left LA at 3:00 pm and got to San Diego at about 8:15 pm last night. We just sat still at Carlsbad Poinsettia Station for over one and a half hours and then slowly proceeded into San Diego.
@Kathy S @Cornelius Ogunsalu Mayor Faulconer, whatcha gonna do about [properly] housing San Diego's homeless men and women? Money that has been wasted on your various gimmicks could have been put to better use! Hey, here is an idea . . . build a beautiful stadium for the homeless men and women of San Diego! That would be money well spent and a viable gimmick!
There is a video showing the flow into Penasquitos lagoon that is as wide as the entire boulevard at the coaster/train station. See:
That video is breathtaking for anyone who is familiar with that area! Stunning! That can be a difficult area during commuter hours in the best of conditions....Was talking with a neighbor yesterday (Thursday) who was held up leaving Sorrento Valley from work that day. She had to sit in her car for hours, until about 8 p.m., before she could edge her way out in her, thankfully, high clearance vehicle.