CAPITOLA, Calif. (KRON) — California beach town residents woke up Thursday morning to collapsed ocean piers, massive 35-foot waves, tide surges, and widespread flooding.
An atmospheric river-powered rainstorm triggered evacuation orders for residents living closest to some Bay Area and Santa Cruz County beaches Wednesday night. Emergency crews urged the public to stay away from the coast Thursday morning as the storm and high tide continued whipping up a monster swell.
Video footage showed the Capitola Wharf split in half and a section of the wharf collapsing into the sea. Water from the ocean and Soquel Creek surged back and forth carrying massive tree trunks.
Farther south in Santa Cruz County, another beach icon was hit hard by the stormy weather. The S.S. Palo Alto, better known simply as the “cement ship,” broke away from the pier where it’s been lodged at Seacliff State Beach.
Wave forecasters with Surfline said Thursday’s “bombing” west-northwest swell may be the biggest in 15 years for California.
Pacific Operations Forecast Manager Schaler Perry wrote, “When compared against benchmark events, like the solid west swell from February of 2008, this one has a realistic chance to be larger. While we are of high confidence Thursday into Friday will see one of the top five largest west-northwest swells of the last 15 years, there’s potential it could be the largest.”
Santa Cruz County officials said the storm caused “significant damage throughout the county and along the coast.” The sheriff’s office urged residents of beachfront homes to avoid ocean-facing windows amid the tidal surge.
Further north, in San Mateo County, firefighters fanned out across beachside neighborhoods where wind gusts blew trees on top of homes, cars, and roadways. Firefighters said they were inundated with “non-stop” 911 calls from residents reporting damages and emergencies.
Tidal surges flooded Stinson Beach in Marin County. Local residents who ventured to the beach had to run to avoid being swept up in fast-moving water.
Waves from the bay also spilled onto San Francisco’s Embarcadero during high tide and drenched the docks around the Ferry Building.