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

January 19, 1988|LEONARD BERNSTEIN and ANDREA ESTEPA | 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.

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