Imperial Beach’s mayor said San Diegans need to respect the impending El Niño like they now respect wildfires.
“At some point you just need to get out of the way,” said Mayor Serge Dedina, as he surveyed the damage from Wednesday’s King Tides.
Mayor Dedina, who is also an environmentalist, said El Niño has already increased the size and power of the annual King Tides. Wednesday morning, the plaza at the end of Palm Avenue and several other coastal roads were flooded.
“All the beaches in San Diego are being hammered right now,” said Mayor Dedina.
Waves reached the rock wall at the base of businesses and homes along Imperial Beach. Dedina said a third of IB’s beach sand has been wiped away. He estimated that’s upwards of $3 million worth of sand.
“I’m not scared or nervous because we’re planning for this,” he added. “We look at this as sort of training for what’s to come.”
Dedina expects beach communities to flood up and down the West coast. He said at the worst points, El Niño could be as dangerous as the wildfires that have ripped across San Diego County in the past. That means evacuating when waves and flooding become too dangerous.
He also stressed long-term planning for coastal communities. Dedina said new construction should take future sea level estimates and coastal flooding into account by building stronger buildings and homes further away from the water. He added natural areas like the Tijuana Estuary need to be repaired and reinforced.
“We have to make sure we conserve and restore every inch of open space along the coast because these are the natural barriers,” he said.
He said those natural barriers can absorb a lot of the trouble El Niño is expected to send San Diego’s way.
“We need to prepare now, and plan now for that, and deal with it now because it’s going to cost a lot more money to deal and plan with it in the future.”