Count Judith Meister as among those thankful for Santa Monica’s lengthy beaches.
The city beach administrator noted that the expansive swaths of sand serve as a buffer between the ocean and local infrastructure, sparing the area of El Niño-related damages that have hit other parts of Southern California this winter.
“I think we made it OK last week through the rain,” she said.
Other coastal communities haven’t been as lucky. The county public works department this week closed a section of the bike path at Dockweiler State Beach that needs repairs following a surge of high surf.
The closure affects a 140-foot portion of the path from the lifeguard station at 8600 Vista del Mar to a maintenance facility at 8255 Vista del Mar, west of Los Angeles International Airport. The segment is part of the 22-mile cycling thoroughfare that runs from Pacific Palisades to Torrance.
Public works officials established a detour that would be clearly marked for cyclists, pedestrians and other users, and there is no timetable for when the usual route will open.
“It gets narrower there between the water and the bike path,” Meister said of the damaged section. “Fortunately, we were OK.”
Meister and other officials are hoping for mild conditions while preparing for the possibility of destructive, El Niño-driven weather patterns.
Meister, who started working for the City of Santa Monica in the early 1980s, has seen inclement weather wreak havoc on the local community before. She was around in 1983 when storms caused a partial collapse of the Santa Monica Pier.
“It was pretty wild,” she said. “We basically lost a quarter of the pier. Hopefully that’s not going to happen again.”
The city has taken numerous steps to account for the chance of consistent rain, Meister said. The parking lots and walkways near the pier have experienced flooding in the past, but a drainage system that was put in several years ago has been effective in keeping overflow to a minimum. And if extreme ocean conditions threatened Santa Monica infrastructure, beach maintenance officials would be ready to create berms with hills of sand.
“As we know,” Meister said, “you never know.”
The Santa Monica Fire Department is typically busier during stormy conditions, but there was “nothing really out of the ordinary” during the recent rainy spell, according to Battalion Chief Mike McElvaney.
Local fire officials respond to more reports of downed or arcing wires and fallen trees in wet weather, McElvaney said. They also see more traffic accidents due to the slickness of rain-covered roads.
But, McElvaney said, the department hasn’t faced severe flooding or other El Niño-related issues so far this season. He added that officials keep an eye on the stability of the Pacific Coast Highway bluffs.
“We’re pretty lucky because we don’t have any real canyons or places where water collects,” he said.
Local residents should make sure their drains are clear of leaves and other debris, McElvaney said. Sandbags are available at city fire stations.