Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Jan. 16 @ 1:45 p.m. / Roads, Weather
Record-Breaking Storm System Brought Flooding, Slides to Del Norte County; Pebble Beach Drive Closed to Pedestrians, Vehicles
[Updated at 1:09 p.m. Tuesday with information about the county breaching Lake Earl to alleviate flooding.]
Pebble Beach Drive is still closed to pedestrians and vehicles following a landslide that occurred about 500 feet south of Brother Jonathan Point on Saturday.
A casualty of a weather event that brought between 8 and 10 inches of precipitation to the region over 72 hours, the landslide is undermining the westbound lane of the scenic drive between 7th and 8th streets, City Manager Eric Wier told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Sunday.
Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin confirmed on Tuesday that the stretch of road was still inaccessible.
“I suggest don’t go near it,” Griffin said. “Some people are going right up to it and taking pictures. That area is going to be closed for the foreseeable future.”
A winter storm that had tapped into a subtropical stream of moisture broke a year-old record in Crescent City on Saturday, brought flooding to the Smith River and caused tributaries around Lake Earl to encroach on Lower Lake Road.
The Smith River basin received 5 to 6 inches of rain over a 72-hour period, National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Boushey said. The basin received a total of about 5.5 inches of rain on Saturday.
Crescent City reached 2.81 inches of rain on Saturday, breaking a record of 2.69 inches from 2023, Boushey said.
More precipitation is expected today with 0.5 to 2 inches of rain with the greatest impacts anticipated for Del Norte County and in the higher elevations, the National Weather Service reported. The NWS is calling for gusty winds of up to 40 mph along the coast and is warning of slick roads and possible minor ponding of water.
According to Del Norte County Sheriff Garrett Scott, areas around the Klamath River did experience water going over the road, but nothing substantial.
Much of the flooding occurred in the Fort Dick area near the Dr. Fine Bridge, Scott said. Water went over South Bank Road underneath the bridge and near the water tower, especially during high tide. As soon as the tide went out water levels reduced about 3 to 4 feet, Scott estimated.
“Our [Search and Rescue] was out, county roads was out, Fort Dick fire was out and then sheriff’s deputies were out as well,” he said. “Lower Lake is still fairly flooded. There are some areas where it’s pretty difficult to get through in a car. In a truck you’re probably OK.”
Due to the flooding, Del Norte County breached Lake Earl at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, County Engineer Jon Olson told the Outpost. Water levels were just over 11 feet at that point, he said. The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors issued an emergency declaration on Jan. 9, which is a necessity for the county to be able to breach the lagoon.
In Crescent City, crews closed Pebble Beach Drive between 7th and 8th streets just after 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Wier said he began to receive phone calls about the slide at about 5 p.m. When city crews evaluated Sunday they found that much of the bank had given way.
“You could see that vegetation that was on top of the hill is now at the very bottom,” Wier told the Outpost, estimating that the slide was initially 50 to 75 feet in length. “The whole thing slid out and there’s new erosion on top of that.”
City and county efforts to stabilize the bluff alongside Pebble Beach Drive date back to 2016. According to Wier, the city has also worked with local counties, but haven’t been able to obtain California Coastal Commission permits.
Meanwhile, though a similar weather event contributed to erosion back in 2016, getting emergency funds to pay for the project has been challenging, Wier said. The project was approved for Federal Highway Administration funding. There’s also state funding involved. But the city would be required to contribute $30 million toward the project, Wier said.
“The challenge is that once we get permitted, [the FHA] requires the local jurisdiction to complete the project first and then apply for, what’s called, advanced construction funding,” Wier said. “They put that request to Congress and then if Congress funds the disaster, then at that point local agencies get reimbursed. Most projects get funded, but nobody will guarantee it.”
Wier said city officials have spoken with Congressman Jared Huffman about the dilemma. The county and Local Transportation Commission are also trying to find solutions, he said.
Wier said he hoped the new emergency will help Crescent City obtain the needed permits through the California Coastal Commission and allow the city to gain traction on the funding challenges.
“We do have expert consultants that have already completed geotechnical investigations,” he said. “There’s a lot of data in this area and we’ll be trying to utilize some drones to see exactly the extent of the [new] slide.”