S.D. County Pummeled by Storm : Beach Homes Flooded, Record Power Outages

Times Staff Writers

San Diego County's coastline, still drying out from the drenching rains and high winds of Sunday's Pacific storm, was belted Monday by a churning 10-foot surf that smashed homes from Imperial Beach to Oceanside and flooded coastal neighborhoods during the morning's high tide.

The county's Office of Disaster Preparedness estimated damage from the two days of wind, rain and floods to be $6.3 million. County Chief Administrative Officer Norman Hickey declared a county-wide emergency, joining city officials in San Diego, Del Mar, Coronado and Imperial Beach, which also declared municipal emergencies.

No region of the county was spared the one-two punch of the storm, which cut electric power to 400,000 customers, damaged or sank 31 boats in San Diego Bay and blew ripening avocados and oranges off trees in inland groves.

Wind speeds reached 64 m.p.h. Sunday and Monday's early morning surf crested at 12 feet in some places.

Dangling limbs and partially uprooted trees prevented the opening of the San Diego Zoo for the first time in its 72-year history. A spokeswoman said that zoo officials feared danger to visitors and animals from the weakened timber.

Officials reported uncounted minor injuries from flying glass and debris propelled by wind and boiling surf Monday. Numerous minor accidents occurred on rain-slicked roads Sunday, but the two-day storm apparently caused no fatalities.

"Actually we were very lucky," said Janet Martin, spokeswoman for the city of Oceanside. "It just looks awful."

Mission Beach Hard Hit

The heaviest damage from Monday morning's high surf appeared to be in Mission Beach, where water crashed into beachfront homes as owners battled the early-morning seas with plywood and sandbags.

One wave lifted a chunk of concrete seawall and tossed it through the front of a vacant beachfront home, leaving a gaping, 20-foot-long hole along the front of the house.

Water filled the house before bricks from the seawall smashed holes in a rear wall and water poured out, said the owner's grandson, who watched the devastation at 3911 Ocean Front Walk about 8:45 a.m. A broken beam appeared to be all that held up the roof, and police cordoned off the home with yellow tape.

"It's totaled. We're tearing it down," said James Adkins, the grandson.

A few blocks south, a set of waves that boiled 15 feet up from the beach smashed through the plate-glass window of a beachfront apartment and flooded the home's bottom floor. The water submerged cars in an underground parking garage.

"I looked over my shoulder and it was right behind me," said Bob Fritchey, who fled to the second floor of his apartment at 3607 Ocean Front Walk as the wall of water crashed through a plate glass window about 8:15 a.m. "It was just like one of those disaster movies."

In the North County, homes in Oceanside and Del Mar were flooded, along with the Poseidon Restaurant in Del Mar and the Chart House in Cardiff.

But an illegal seawall that the state Coastal Commission is seeking to have removed prevented major damage to expensive beachfront homes between 24th and 26th streets in Del Mar.

Old Highway 101 was closed in three low-lying portions of Carlsbad for several hours Monday while rocks and sand and other debris could be swept away. City employees chased away daredevil surfers and intrepid gawkers who ventured out onto a rock jetty near the Encina power plant.

A Call to Evacuate

In Imperial Beach, fire officials said they advised residents of the Boca Ria apartment complex and all other residents of the southern tip of the sea coast to evacuate their homes Sunday because of the storm. But few people left the complex and damage was limited to broken windows, roof damage and patio covers being torn loose.

The city's fire department offered the fire house as a refuge for evacuees both Sunday night and Monday, but no one came in. Oceanside officials housed 13 people in a hastily-established evacuation center in Oceanside High Schools Sunday night.

Streets along the county's entire coastline were flooded Monday morning. A quarter-mile section of Old Highway 101 was swamped in Cardiff, leaving the city's Restaurant Row marooned until afternoon. Also closed was California 75--the Strand Highway--from Rainbow Street in Imperial Beach to Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado.

Local roads along the coast were also hard hit by flooding. As water receded in Mission Beach's honeycomb of narrow alleys, residents busied themselves shoveling sand away from their homes and removing small mountains of kelp that had been dumped by the storm.

A coastal flood warning will remain in effect for this morning, as astronomical high tides combine with continued high surf, National Weather Service forecaster Dan Atkin said.

The high tide will reach 7.6 feet at 8:50 this morning, and surf will be in the six- to eight-feet range at that time, according to Atkin.

Some flooding is expected in low-lying areas close to west-facing beaches, such as Imperial Beach's Silver Strand area and South Mission Beach, he said.

Along with the bad weather came two water-main breaks, which cut off water briefly to Mira Mesa residents and reduced water pressure to "a couple of hundred thousand" customers in La Jolla, Clairemont and other nearby communities Sunday, said a city Water Utilities Department spokeswoman.

Spokeswoman Yvonne Rehg would not blame the weather, saying: "It's very hard to say why the particular pipes broke."

Homeowners, however, weren't the only victims of the storm that many compared to the series of three storms that caused $231 million damage in early 1983. The wind, rain and surf was also responsible for:

- An estimated $150,000 damage to the hull of the Berkeley, a 90-year-old ship that was converted to a floating museum in 1973. High surf smashed the ship against the pier at the foot of Ash Street and Harbor Drive, turning 100 feet of the pier to splinters and twisting iron poles like rubber.

- The sinking of 12 boats and damage to 19 others that were broken loose from their moorings and dashed against rocks in San Diego Bay. One sailboat in Oceanside Harbor, the Trinidad, also broke loose from its moorings and smashed on rocks at the water's edge.

Sgt. Ken Efranke of the San Diego Harbor Police estimated that the 12 lost boats were worth between $100,000 and $250,000 each. He said it was too soon to estimate how much damage had been done to the other 19.

- Interruption of electric service to 400,000 customers at the height of the storm Sunday, a number that San Diego Gas & Electric spokesmen described as "a record or close to it.

"We had problems everywhere within the service territory," said spokesman Dave Smith. "There was no area that completely escaped damage as far as I know."

Working Through the Night

Plagued by continued heavy winds Monday, 40 repair crews had whittled the number of homes and businesses without power to about 50,000 by 8 p.m. Monday, and hoped to reduce that figure to 5,000 throughout the area by morning.

"We will be working through the night to bring them back in, but it's safe to say that we'll have customers without power (Tuesday) morning," Smith said. He said he believed that all service could be restored by Tuesday night.

The power failure also caused a La Jolla pump station to go out, causing 108,000 gallons of sewage to be discharged into the ocean at Vista Del Playa.

- Interruption of cable television service to 110,000 Southwestern Cable Systems customers shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday night. By 5 p.m. Monday, all service had been restored except in some parts of La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, where power outages prevented residents from regaining service.

Cox Cable officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

- Severe erosion along many North County beaches. Hardest hit was South Carlsbad State Beach Park, where seven of eight bluff-to-beach stairways were washed out and two lifeguard towers lost.

Dennis Stoufer, a state beach parks supervisor, said that large quantities of sand were washed out to sea along the entire North Coast area, with further damage expected during high tides this morning.

- Destruction of an unoccupied 100-foot observation tower located north of the Mission Bay Jetty, 8/10ths of a mile off the coast. The tower was owned by the U.S. Navy but had been used by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for the past 18 months for various water motion and marine biology studies.

"It was here at about 10 p.m. and was gone at 10:30," said Dan Collins of the Mission Bay Harbor Patrol. The tower is marked on navigational charts and the Coast Guard has been sending out warnings that the base and debris may still be below the surface.

- Damage to inland greenhouses and avocado crops from gale-force winds that ripped plastic tops off many nursery structures and caused avocados and oranges to drop to the ground prematurely.

"We have no idea of the extent of damage yet," Charles Woods of the San Diego County Farm Bureau said. "Avocados were the hardest hit. Fallen fruit will probably be left on the ground because damaged fruit is not worth the cost of collecting it."

- Approximately $125,000 damage to trees and plant life and $50,000 damage to structures in the San Diego Zoo. One rare bird, a Satin Bower, was killed when it became frightened, flew into some wires and drowned in a pool of water.

- The destruction of the Hotel Del Coronado's Centennial Pavilion, a 7,000 square-foot canvas tent stretched over a tennis court behind the hotel.

The tent's contents, including imitation crown chandeliers like those found in the hotel's Crown Ballrooms, were also destroyed, said Patrick Hennessey, the hotel's director of communications. One employee sustained bruised ribs from flying debris.

Times Staff Writers Curtis L. Taylor, Raymond L. Sanchez, Nancy Ray, Anthony Perry and Kathie Bozanich contributed to this story.

Map of storm damage:

1. Agricultural Regions: Avocado and citrus crops blown from trees.

2. Oceanside: Three people injured when pushed through glass doors of oceanfront home by tide; 13 others evacuated to Red Cross Evacuation Center in Oceanside High School.

3. South Carlsbad State Beach: Seven of eight bluff-to-beach stairways washed out; two lifeguard towers lost.

4. Cardiff: A quarter of a mile stretch of Old U.S. 101 flooded; Chart House restaurant flooded.

5. Del Mar: Homes and the Poseidon restaurant flooded.

6. Mission Beach: Sections of the boardwalk buried under four- and five-foot-high piles of seaweed; streets flooded; water and sand damage to many structures; concrete seawall pushed through the front of an unoccupied beach house by waves, tearing off most of the front of the house.

7. Scripps Oceanographic Research Tower (just north of Mission Bay Jetty, eight-tenths of a mile off the coast): Destroyed by waves.

8. Hotel Del Coronado: Centennial Pavillion tent destroyed.

9. Silver Strand Boulevard: Flooded from Rainbow Street in Imperial Beach to Coronado.

10. San Diego Bay: Thirty-one boats sunk or damaged.

11. Balboa Park: San Diego Zoo failed to open for first time in its 72-year history; $175,000 in damage to structures, trees and plant life.

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