ENCINITAS, Calif., (KGTV) -- A day after a giant rock formation fell and killed three locals at Grandview Beach, geologist Dr. Pat Abbott assessed the damage.
Shes off and wading in high tide, he explained the cause of the Friday's tragedy.
"The waves come up and beat against the cliffs, and the gravity pulls on those cliffs day after day and year after year," Dr. Abbott said. "It just gradually weakens, and one day it can't take it anymore and just falls down."
The waves nibble away the rock at the bottom, and the water for the ice plants on the top, brown, softer sediment weaken the formation.
"All that does really is add weight to the cliff," Dr. Abbott said. " And of course, the more weight that is there, the stronger the gravity."
But as we walked along the beach, we found many more problem spots. Just feet north of Friday's fallen rock, there is a formation of what looks to be a small cave. With no bottom support, the top will eventually break off.
"When that falls, that's the same thing as having a cement wall fall on you," Dr. Abbott said.
We walked a few more feet north and saw what he called another visible sign of danger.
"This strong cliff here and this rock mass now is now detached from the main rock," Dr. Abbott pointed.
The vertical fracture separated the front rock formation from the rest of the bluff. This is a sign that it is ready to form. Exactly when it falls, only Mother Nature will know.
So the next time you decide on where o put down your beach towel, remember to study the rock behind you.
"Look for fractures or overhanging rock masses, and don't go near those," Dr. Abbott warned.
Dr. Abbott also said the visible fractures at the bottom of the bluffs are far away enough from the homes atop, that they should not pose any danger.