March 2010 home page


A Mini-Perfect Storm
Bill Michalsky, | Stratford Court

Valley Avenue January 20th at 6:30 pm. 
Photos Adam Chase, DM Lifeguard


We haven’t experienced a major rain event in many years. Are we prepared when a high tide, large surf and a torrential downpour collide? Do we know what to expect from storm water runoff and its possible impacts to our sewer system? The recent result was flooding in many low lying areas in and around Del Mar.

This all occurred on January 20th and into the morning of the 21st. It had rained on and off during the day and after nightfall the heavy rains came in. That evening’s incoming tide peaked after midnight at plus 4.5’ with high surf causing a storm surge that pushed against the out-flowing San Dieguito River which was carrying storm water to the ocean. The result was flooding along San Dieguito Drive and water overflowing into the South Overflow Lot along Jimmy Durante Blvd which added to the already flooded main parking lot and administrative buildings at the Fairgrounds. Also impacted was the Stevens Creek drainage from Eden Gardens in Solana Beach that backed up and caused flooding along Valley Avenue to the north of Via de la Valle.
Our Del Mar Lifeguards made many rescues of motorists who became stranded on Valley Avenue and the Fairgrounds main parking lot. Lifeguards also assisted homeowners in the Coast Blvd area with sandbags.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the flooding of some Del Mar streets added to the wastewater burden of our sewer system. As water overflowed, the flooding passed through clean out lids into our sewer system and taxed the pumping capacity at the 21st Street pump station. Another factor became the accumulation of water on the Fairgrounds property which also flooded into their sewer system. The agreement with the Fairgrounds, approved in December 2009, allows them to pump 630 gallons per minute from their system to Del Mar’s. The Fairgrounds was exceeding their flow rate for a period of time that caused concern for Del Mar’s overall pumping capacity. Public Works assessed the situation and instructed the Fairgrounds to control their pumping. Their exceeding capacity is a risk the City does not want to experience. No sewer spills were reported.

And there is more. The drainage ditch that runs parallel to the railroad tracks on the west side typically drains to the north into the San Dieguito River. But the combination of high tide and storm surf caused flooding water to flow south in this ditch all the way to the tennis courts. This flow, while not causing damage, dislodged a large, long time accumulation of tennis balls (over 250 by some accounts) and bottles. A good reverse clean-out.

All Del Mar systems were taxed but appeared to have survived this wet weather test. Our recently restored lagoon wetland appears no worse from its first downpour experience. Will we be ready for the next one?


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