San Diego

After Series of El Niño-Fueled Storms, Cleanup Begins for Many Residents

Across San Diego County, residents are starting their weekend picking up the pieces after a series of strong El Niño storms left many homes flooded and in need of repair. 

"I'm probably not going to be able to keep any of the stuff that was damaged because of the water. It was just swill; it wasn't clear, it was all brown water,” Kelly Fouquier said after returning to her apartment.

 After several days of strong, El Niño-driven storms, many residents have finally had the chance to examine just how much damage the storms caused. 

“I would ask them to come out and assess the damage,” property damage attorney Evan Walker said. “Just because a property was flooded doesn't mean all the property damage is related to flood."

On Saturday morning, Cleanups for Change went out around Ocean Beach to pick up litter in the areas worst impacted by the week’s series of strong El Niño storms. Crews combed through storm drains and high water points to prevent more trash from getting into the ocean. 

Four-year-old Ashlyn Graves and her mom Stefanie are one of many families that came out. Stefanie turned it into a circle of life lesson.

“Sometimes it happens on accident, that people drop trash and don’t realize it," Graves told her daughter. "That we need to be aware ourselves at the beach to pick up all of our trash."

The volunteers filled their trash buckets mostly of cigarette butts.

“They’re everywhere. It’s such an easy thing to be responsible for your cigarette buts, but it just doesn’t happen,” said volunteer Eric Gerhardt.

“You wonder how much of it’s coming towards the water and how much of it’s coming in from the other way,” said volunteer Henry Harmeling.

Out of all the trash, Ashlyn only found one treasure—a penny.

“We found all that in the rocks and over there and stuff,” said 4-year-old Graves.

The Ocean Beach Pier is closed until further notice as crews work to fix minor damage the pier sustained during days of high tide.

Electric Chair salon in Ocean Beach was also filled with water.

“It was really scary,” Amanda Bourbois of the Electric Chair told NBC 7. “Actually it came in really fast – that was probably the scariest thing about it was how quick everything happened.”

One big concern moving forward through this El Niño season is now that the ground is soaked and the soil has absorbed a lot of water, the next storms that move through could have a bigger impact and be even more destructive.

Following a week of heavy rain, San Diego Lifeguards warned beachgoers to avoid the water, as urban runoff has dirtied the ocean water close to shore.

“It’s just urban water runoff,” said Capt. James Gartland with the San Diego Lifeguards. “So anything people put on their lawns, oil from streets, animal feces, all kinds of things, that all comes down here to the ocean and to the rain water, that storm water, and all that storm water backs up. It can be real dirty stuff.”

During the week, many streets across the county were shut down to traffic after heavy rain pounded San Diego this week, causing floods and damage in some areas.

For more on El Niño, check out our dedicated feature page by clicking here.

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