Environment & Science

El Niño storms threaten cliff-top homes near San Francisco

Duncan Sinfield uploaded a video to YouTube that shows coastal erosion in Pacifica on Jan. 23, captured by a drone.
Duncan Sinfield uploaded a video to YouTube that shows coastal erosion in Pacifica on Jan. 23, captured by a drone.
Duncan Sinfield via YouTube

El Niño storms delivering crashing waves and powerful rain storms have put homes perched atop coastal bluffs near San Francisco in danger, authorities said Sunday.

Two cliff-top homes have been evacuated, joining several other nearby houses and apartment buildings abandoned in past years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Pacifica City Manager Lorie Tinfow on Friday declared a local state of emergency, prompted by storm damage to the coastal city about 10 miles south of San Francisco.

"El Niño is hitting the city's coastline very hard and creating almost daily reports of impacts to both public and private property," she said in a statement.

Storms in 2003 began shearing off huge chunks of the sandstone cliffs in Pacifica. Several of the homes and apartments were abandoned in 2010.

Officials since then shored up the bluffs, stacking rocks at the base of the cliff to break the crashing waves. They also drilled reinforcement rods into the bluffs and coated the cliff-faces with reinforced concrete. The cliffs had held in the last four years of drought, but the newspaper reports that they are no match for recent storms.

YouTube

A YouTube video posted Saturday shows a large chunk of the cliff breaking off under a vacated apartment building. Parts of other homes and their back patios are left precariously hanging. Storms have also damaged a seawall and the Pacifica Pier, popular with tourists and anglers, partially closing it.

Skies over Northern California have temporarily cleared, following a series of pounding January storms. The newspaper reports that the next round of rain could wash over by mid-week.