Ten-foot-high sand mounds are being built around restrooms, lifeguard buildings and other facilities at several Los Angeles County beaches to guard against winter storm damage.
"We don't really like to build them and they're unsightly," said Steve Voorhees, a spokesman for the county lifeguard service. "But they do the job."
Dockweiler, Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches are among the nine county beaches where the sand mounds, called berms, will be built by mid-December, county officials said.
The berms, which have been built annually at the nine beaches since storms ravaged the Southern California coast in 1983, reduce flooding and undermining of beach structures, Voorhees said. They are usually flattened in March or April when wind and waves are likely to be less severe, he said.
Wayne Schumaker, chief of beach safety and sanitation for the county, said that the berms, which are usually 10 feet tall and 10 feet thick, reduce wave action during high tides.
"When they hit, you get an over-spray, lessening the impact," Schumaker said. He added that the berms also give lifeguards time to put out sand bags for additional protection during severe storms.
In addition to those at restrooms and permanent lifeguard stations, berms will be built to protect campgrounds, bike paths, parking lots and other county facilities near the beaches, Schumaker said.
The berms don't always work, however.
Schumaker said that although several beaches had berms up during the 1983 storm, they provided little protection against the 15- to 20-foot waves that hit then. Voorhees said he believes the 1983 storm was a fluke, but was reminded of the danger when storms caused millions of dollars in damage at Redondo Beach's King Harbor in January and April.
Antony Orme, an expert in coastal planning at UCLA, said that while it is difficult to predict weather, especially strong storms can be expected every 3 to 4 years.
Considering this, he said, "we should prepare for above-average wave and storm conditions."