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Time, Tides Generate Endless Cycle of Change

May 09, 1991|CHRIS AHRENS

Storms such as those that struck North County in the early 1980s remove large amounts of sand from the beaches.

But violent weather can also work to deposit sand along the coast.

In 1916, more than 10 inches of rain fell near Camp Pendleton within a week. The river and coastal flooding that followed caused the beaches to swell to nearly 1,000 feet wide.

Weather observers note that heavy rains recorded early in this century and in the previous century have not been seen in recent decades. Meanwhile, dams have been built to control the flooding that does occur--and in the process limit the arrival of large amounts of new sand from rivers.

In earlier times, the beach was wide enough to be used as a roadway.

The 1889 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Topographical Survey reported that "from Muscle Rocks (near Torrey Pines) there is an unbroken sand beach for 40 or 50 miles, or as far north as the valley of San Juan Capistrano. In former times this stretch of beach was used whenever specially fast time was to be made on the route to Los Angeles via Capistrano to San Diego."

Today, few beaches are driveable--and even walking is difficult in some places because of the steep berms of beach cobble.

The winter of '82-'83 was the last time that really large surf along with high tides were recorded in North County. Large waves stripped away sand and pounded the coast that winter.

Huge boulders, some weighing more than a ton, were thrown through the windows of beachfront restaurants on Cardiff's restaurant row, and many beachfront houses were threatened by the encroaching tides.

Some of the beaches lost enough sand to take them down to bedrock. The limited amount of new sand coming downstream and from cliffs has not been enough to replenish the beaches.

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