El Niño Threatens to Dump Homes into the Ocean

Pacifica El Niño (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
Eric Risberg / Associated Press

An apartment building in Pacifica, California is in danger of toppling into the ocean as El Niño-fueled waves batter and erode the cliff underneath it.

Residents of 310 Esplanade Avenue were ordered to pack and evacuate Monday after the city of Pacifica “yellow-tagged” the building, deeming it uninhabitable.

A dramatic drown video captured by an employee of local Fox affiliate KTVU shows the extent of the erosion, as a portion of the bluff near the apartments breaks away and falls into the ocean.

“Recent bluff failures have resulted in unsafe conditions for living space at 310 Esplanade Avenue,” Chief Building Official Mike Cully said in a statement. “Cavities in the bluff are forming to the south, west and north of the building and these critically over-steepened slopes are anticipated to fall back to more stable profiles in the next several days.”

Police chief Dan Steidle said the city had reached out to the American Red Cross and the Pacifica Resource Center for assistance.

Pacifica’s city manager declared a state of emergency on Friday as rainstorms and high surf brought on by a record El Niño have pummeled the city pier and part of a sea wall near Beach Boulevard. The city said it would need state and federal assistance to address “the growing list of failing public infrastructure.”

The current El Niño has delivered much-needed rain to California, but powerful storms have caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures across the state. High surf advisories recently issued for portions of northern California have warned of waves as high as 24 feet.

“Just watching the ferocity and strength of these long waves, the damage that they can do and the number of spots we can be hit… we’re going to need assistance,” Pacifica Mayor Sue Digre told the San Jose Mercury News on Friday. “I think everyone should be on alert.”

Two other buildings on Esplanade Avenue were evacuated and condemned in 2010, according to CBS News. A powerful El Niño in 1998 reportedly sent one cliffside home tumbling into the ocean, but none of the residents were harmed.


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