Malibu Weathers Weekend Storm

A seal perches itself on a rock to avoid swelling waves by Malibu Road at noon Sunday during the weekend storms. Animal Rescue was called after the seal spent five hours on the rock, but by the time they arrived, he returned to the water. 

Two powerful storm fronts brought heavy rain showers and storm surges off the Pacific over the weekend, damaging beaches, knocking out power, setting off rockslides and shutting down local parks. A dangerous nighttime rescue also took place Saturday night at Malibu Creek State Park, where four hikers were fined for exposing emergency personnel to “rapids similar to those found on the Colorado River.” 

All told, the effects of the rain were felt between the first storm front that hit Malibu on Wed., Feb. 26, and when the sky finally cleared on Sun., March 2. 

Malibu SAR Rescues Stranded Hikers 

Rescue personnel, firefighters and lifeguards from all around the Malibu region worked together in the early morning hours of Sunday to pull four stranded hikers out of Malibu Creek in a risky operation that led to fines for unnecessary endangerment for the rescuers. 

On Saturday at about 6:45 p.m., the LASD Malibu Search and Rescue team received a call to aid stranded hikers at the “rock pool” area in Malibu Creek State Park. 

At that point in the weekend, following so much rainfall, the “rock pool” had swelled in size and, according to an email from Malibu SAR Captain David Katz, was “flying through the rock formations” and going an estimated 20 mph. 

“After several days of torrential rains, we were shocked that anyone would have gone out hiking, let alone in an area with water rushing in excess of 20 mph and rapids similar to those found on the Colorado River,” Katz said. 

A combined team made up of Malibu SAR, LACO Fire, LACO Fire Urban Search and Rescue, LACO Lifeguards and State Parks personnel, utilizing boats and hundreds of pounds of equipment, spent nine hours working their way through the creek to find the stranded hikers. However, they were not able to reach the hikers, who were situated on a plateau in the middle of the river. 

Sheriff and Fire helicopters were not able to locate the hikers, but a Ventura County SAR helicopter spotted the four hikers around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The hikers were rescued safely and later received citations for endangering the safety of those sent out to save them from the rising water. The citation carries with it a $400 fine for each hiker. 

Damage to beach homes 

Homeowners with beachfront property in Malibu suffered losses ranging from the destruction of staircases to loss of storm walls. 

Residents of Las Flores Beach contacted The Malibu Times on Saturday morning after witnessing powerful surf tearing stairwells away from homes up and down the beach. 

“We saw lots of stairs go by in the last couple of hours, and then our stairwell was ripped out too and went racing away in the high surf,” resident Roxanne McCann said. “The waves are ferocious here on Las Flores Beach.” 

Meanwhile, Fire Station 99 received a call on the same morning from a home on Broad Beach that suffered structural damage. 

“I believe part of the problem was that there was a high storm surge with a high tide,” said Captain Rob Isakson, who said Engine 99 on Saturday responded to a vacation rental home that lost its sea wall and one of its support legs. The City of Malibu’s Building and Safety Department was sent to assess the damage. 

Other fire stations around Malibu did not report any 911 calls as a result of the storm. 

Zuma Beach suffers severe erosion, no structural damage 

Lifeguard captains at Zuma Beach reported that although there was severe erosion at Malibu’s beaches due to a combination of high surf and high tide, no structures were damaged and no swimmers or surfers were injured during the storm this weekend. 

“Beach erosion was severe, compared to most storms, but not unprecedented,” said Captain Jeff Horn of the 50 yards of beach that was swept away following the weekend’s weather. 

“The natural ebb and flow of things is that the beach goes away in the winter and comes back in the summertime,” added Horn, who reported no physical damage due to the storms, which did cause Zuma Beach parking lot, Point Dume parking lot and Western Beach Road to close for part of Friday, as water washed up to the level of the road. 

Six to eight inches of sand were dumped into the Zuma Beach parking lot during the storm this weekend. 

“It’s more housekeeping than damage,” reported Horn. 

Lifeguard towers should be put back in place, after having been moved to higher ground, by this upcoming weekend. 

Thornhill Broome Beach campground damaged 

A rockslide from nearby cliffs crashed down onto the campground at Thornhill Broome Beach at Point Mugu over the weekend, partially demolishing an asphalt service road along the beach and strewing rocks along the sand. 

Parks officials say the rocks likely had become less stable due to the loss of anchor plants after the Springs Fire in 2013. The campground was closed along with all of Point Mugu in preparation for the storm and will remain closed indefinitely while repairs are made. 

“It is uncertain when we will be able to reopen,” Craig Sap, District Superintendent for the Angeles District State Parks, said in an email, “but we are committed to get it done as soon as possible.” 

National Park closures 

As of Tuesday, several areas of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area remained closed after heavy flooding. 

The Rocky Oaks, Peter Strauss, Cheeseboro Canyon and Zuma Canyon (Bonsall) parking lots are all closed. Although trails are open, Parks rangers urge visitors to avoid them until they dry, as foot traffic on soggy trails could cause further harm to the trails. 

Power outages 

Mark Song, a public information officer with Southern California Edison (SCE), said SCE employees worked during the heaviest rainfall Saturday morning responding to an estimated 10,000 outages in the Southern California region. Song said Edison did not have exact numbers from Malibu. 

“[There] wasn’t any kind of significant outage [in Malibu] that I recall,” Song said. “The outages didn’t last that long.” 

CalTrans rebuilding road protection 

Malibu drivers will still feel the effect of the storm this week if they’re driving in and out of Ventura County on PCH, where CalTrans will be replacing “rip rap” boulders protecting the roadway from high surf. Pounding waves and heavy rain damaged the previous protections at Point Mugu, so CalTrans workers will be periodically closing the roadway to facilitate their replacement this week, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. They anticipate traffic delays of 3 to 5 minutes in either direction.