Saturday, January 30, 2010

"A True El Nino #2", by Bill Powers

WATER TEMP. Water temp. is probably the easiest and most notable sign that a "True El Nino" is in your area. Mid 70's in the middle of winter and into spring is a Big Indication of a "True El Nino".

WIND. The wind during the "True El Nino" that I worked through, came up one day literally "out of nowhere" and blew 70 mph onshore. It did this TWICE about a week apart. No one that I talked to could every remember the wind blowing this hard onshore. The wind, in turn, whipped the ocean into a frenzy with very choppy surf inshore that damaged or completely destroyed almost every pier on the Southern California coast. Topanga Point was 10 feet deep in wood from sun decks along the Malibu coastline that were destroyed and ripped apart by the this windstorm and surf.

SEA LIFE. There were these "Giant Squid" that started showing up on the south facing points. These squid were about three feet long. I was at Malibu one day and they seemed to be everywhere on the wet sand. There were also thousands of these "Red Crabs" on the wet sand, as well as outside the surf line where they were hanging on the kelp. Some of my friends that fish called them "Tuna Crabs" because the fishing got very good when these crabs got pushed up to our beaches by the warm El Nino current. Fish normally caught in Cabo in Mexico were being caught in So. California waters.

Bill Powers, LACo S.O.L., Retired
Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
January 30, 2010 (aka, "Pay Day")

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A. Powers is once again "Right On The Money" re Giant Squid. Just today, Feb. 1, 2010, Yahoo Buzz reported that Giant Squid are showing up Big Time in Southern California recently because of the warm waters from the current El Nino

See: "Invasion of The Giant Squids", by Mike Krumboltz, Feb. 1, 2010 at:

*** Photo info/source: In this Sept. 18, 2009 photo, Pedro Manuel Alcolado Menendez, a senior researcher with Cuba's Institute of Oceanology, looks at a giant squid at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla.(AP Photo/Christine Armario)

B. Photo of Giant Squid

(Photo source:

C. Wikipedia re "Giant Squid":

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"A True El Niño"
, by Bill Powers, LACo S.O.L., Ret. (previously posted on Jan. 19, 2010)

("Venice Pier Archive Photo" Courtesy of Nathalie Brouwer. Photo & Copyright by Nathalie Brouwer 2009. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.)

With every tv network blaring and repeating the words, El Niño, these days, it reminded me of one night in the El Niño years of the early 1980's, particularly the El Nino storm of March 1983. I was working out of SMHQ. Lt. Tom Viren was in charge. The weather and the ocean were very different this particular winter. The water temp. was in the low 70's in the middle of the winter ("A True El Niño"). I remember one day the wind came up and blew onshore at about 70 mph! The Weather Service missed the call and no one let us know the wind was coming. I talked to everyone I could and no one could remember the wind ever blowing onshore this hard. I went out on the Santa Monica Pier with another lifeguard, Adrian Crook (also an Engineer with the Santa Monica Fire Dept.). The pier was closed to the public and you could feel the whole pier move when the waves moved under you. When you looked at the ocean, it was rolling white water to the horizon. The wind was blowing so hard that when someone opened the lower doors in a building in the Marina that it blew out all the windows on that floor. In Malibu, about 70% of all the beach front sun decks were stacked up on Topanga Point.

At approximately 2300 hrs that same day, the Venice Pier phone started shorting out. Lt. Viren said he would ride along with me, while my partner stayed at SMHQ to monitor the switchboard and radio. As we headed toward the Venice Pier, the water was coming back to the boardwalk in a lot of spots. We ended up driving on the Boardwalk just to get around some of the deep spots. As we got to the pier the wind was blowing somewhere between 30 - 40 mph onshore. You could not see very far as you looked out at the ocean, but you could hear it. A continuous rumble was the background noise for everything that was happening all around us as we pulled up to the pier. The first thing I noticed was that the ground and the deck of the pier was wet everywhere. We waited for awhile and watched for anything that would dampen our evening, with the spray from the Big Onshore Wind soaking everything. After awhile we decided it would be ok to check the station on the pier.

So we get to the station and onto the headlights comes the first wave of a set, its higher than the handrail on the pier with water coming on to the pier from both sides. I put the truck in reverse trying to get to the gate, which we left open just in case. The wave goes by us, putting about 2 feet of white water around the truck. I kept backing up, knowing that the next few waves could be larger. We stopped at the bike path and watched as 1 - feet of white water headed east on Washington Blvd. The set was about 10 waves. We notified the police and they closed off the area. The next day, the Engineers closed the pier for 2 years because of damage. The recheck swim in April had 70 degree water temp.

Bill Powers,
L.A. County Lifeguard,
30 years

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Many Thanks to Bill Powers
for yet another gem from his many years of lifeguard experience saving lives from Dockweiler to Zuma and more.

***Cross-Reference: For The Record:

Subject: El Nino Is Back !
From: will.maguire
Date: July 9, 2009 10:42:07 PM PDT

Per Associated Press (AP),

El Nino conditions return to affect weather

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Posted Thu Jul 9, 2009 8:24am PDT

( originally published at: )

Until next time.....

Will Maguire, Editor
"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

*** Keeping the County Recurrent "in the loop"..... whether he/she likes it or NOT ! ***

County Recurrent is not affiliated with nor sponsored by LACOLA or LACoFD.

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spike said...

I remember a couple of things about that el nino year. I actually surfed the Zuma Beach parking lot! Somewhere, I have a picture of me on a foam board riding a wave through the parking lot (on my knees). Either during or after this time (not quite sure) they "invented" the high dozer-made berms that are in place now along many of our beaches.
My other distinct memory is taking patients to Westlake hospital (we were paramedics then) over Kanan Dume Rd. It reminded me of Hawaii. The waterfalls were amazing and frequent. It was beautiful.

William Maguire said...

Just in from Retired Chief, Randy DeGregori, 02.02.2010: "Somewhere I have a picture of Mark Temkin holding up a 4' squid in Baja. This took place about three winters ago. He gave it the old lifeguard assist when it seemed intent on running aground but it decided to get aggressive with him. Anyway due to the personal nature of this picture it must remain private till retirement time.


PS they say, squids of a flipper swim together."