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'A recipe for trouble'

Fallen trees, high tides, heavy rainfall, flooding and muddy conditions all contributed to a difficult day.

December 22, 2010|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com
  • A worker covers a landslide with a tarp below a home on Bayside Drive after a rain deluge Wednesday morning drenched the area.
A worker covers a landslide with a tarp below a home on Bayside… (Mike Reicher, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — When you mix a high tide with the most rain in recent memory, there's bound to be problems.

Newport Beach city crews scrambled from dawn to dusk Wednesday, clearing debris from 20 trees that had been blown down overnight, pumping water from the flooded Balboa Peninsula and nearby islands and restoring power to thousands of residents.

The sixth consecutive day of rain in Orange County was compounded by a 6-and-a-1/2-foot tide that overwhelmed bulkheads on Newport Island and Balboa Island, city officials said. It's the highest tide Newport has seen in five years, said Public Works Director Stephen Badum.

"It's a recipe for trouble" when mixed with the rain, Badum said.

Water on the peninsula and Balboa Island streets was curb-high in places, with crews setting up huge pumps to spill the water back into the bay.

In one spot, muddy conditions caused unstable ground that brought large concrete blocks and metal handrails tumbling onto Bayside Drive and landing a few hundred feet east of the Balboa Island bridge.

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The Balboa Fun Zone was flooded, with water creeping into the local arcade and pizza parlor there.

Newport-Mesa firefighters were dealing with the weather as well, except farther south in Laguna Beach. Costa Mesa and Newport Beach contributed firefighters to Strike Teams, a sort of mobile-response team unit, to Laguna to help with evacuations and prevent further flooding there.

Orange County's beaches were equally inundated.

Jon Mitchell, a Newport Beach lifeguard captain, said beaches in Corona del Mar and Balboa Peninsula lost 30 feet of sand, and that the lifeguard towers had to be pushed back by a maintenance crew to prevent them from being toppled over.

"We've had significant erosion," Mitchell said. "We lost a big part of our beach. It compromised several of our lifeguard towers, and one of the towers in Corona del Mar was getting hit big time by waves."

Surf was also high throughout the day, Mitchell said, adding that there were 10-foot sets in the late morning and early afternoon. Seawater covered all of Corona del Mar State Beach's sand and fire pits, forming a short-lived coastline at the parking lot.

But by mid-afternoon as the tide dropped, so did the height of the waves, which dwindled to six feet.

Newport Beach Operations Director Mark Harmon said 20 trees blew over from the wind because they were supported in the saturated ground. None caused significant damage and only one fell on private property and into the corner of a house, ripping off shingles without causing structural damage, Harmon said.

Below ground, water was flooding the city's power grid, causing some 2,480 Newport Beach and 60 Costa Mesa residents to lose power from about 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. More than 200 Newport Beach residents were still without power Wednesday afternoon, Southern California Edison officials said.

The storm was expected to pass by Wednesday night. Thursday should be sunny but cool, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff writers Tom Ragan, Mike Reicher and Mona Shadia contributed to this report.

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