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Experts concerned with increased beach erosion in wake of Hurricane Kay

Experts concerned by heightened amount of erosion following Tropical Storm Kay
Experts concerned by heightened amount of erosion following Tropical Storm Kay 03:10

Hurricane Kay, which had turned into a tropical storm by the time it reached land in the United States, brought a flurry of rare weather to the Southland over the weekend. 

In the wake of the event, one of the few storms of such magnitude to hit the area, experts are concerned by the significant increase in erosion that happened as a result, completely tearing away sections of coastline. 

"We saw around five feet of vertical displacement of the sand," said UC Irvine Engineering Professor Brett Sanders. "That means that walkways down to the beach aren't accessible."

Sanders says that the tropical storm isn't the only factor that contributed to the erosion, noting that Friday night brought a rare series of events unlike any California has seen in recent history. 

"Something somewhat rare happened on Friday night this past weekend," Sanders said. "We saw three things happen all at the same time, which contributed to this significant erosion event."

This trifecta of instances included a "spring high-tide, which is one of our bigger high-tides, we saw a storm surge, which lifted that tide up another six inches or so, and at the exact same time as the tide was peaking on Friday night, we saw a rush of wave energy onto the coast."

Sanders shared photos of damage along the coast in Laguna Beach, including the Crystal Cove Historic District cottage made famous in Bette Midler's "Beaches" in 1988, where the beach surrounding the structure has all but disappeared.

Further south at Capistrano Beach, Orange County Parks officials closed a parking lot close to the shore, as waves continued to chip away at the asphalt. 

This isn't the first instance of wave action encroaching on popular areas, according to locals, who noted that the waves have eaten up a basketball court and a bathroom.

"It's kind of scary knowing that I've been down here for 20 years and there used to be a basketball court down here," said Vic Whitsett, who lives nearby. "That washed away."

"I'm so used to being able to walk from San Clemente all the way to Doheny Beach," said Ann Jackson, who lives in Dana Point.

Despite the increased amount of erosion, Sanders said not all that came from the storm is bad news, detailing large piles of sand found in Laguna Beach in the days after.

"As sea levels continue to inch up, events where we have high tides and high waves at the same time become more and more likely," Sanders said. "Every year we're more likely to see these types of events, they're more likely to occur twice a year, three times a year as opposed to just once a year."

Sanders said the sand will eventually come back, he just isn't sure how much. In the meantime, he warns that beachgoers and residents are at risk since the beach acts as a buffer we count on for protection from the ocean. 

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