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Heavy rains wash away much of main beach area in downtown Laguna Beach

December 22, 2010 |  7:13 am

At daybreak in Laguna Beach, high tides were colliding with rivers of water gushing down Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway, wiping out much of the main beach downtown and washing away the sand beneath the popular boardwalk.

The area has been closed to through traffic as crews scramble to divert the rushing waters and clear away  dirt and debris that's coming down from surrounding hills.

“There are rivers coming through town, and they’ve washed out the north end of our beach,” said Jeff Grubert, 48, an entertainment distribution company manager who has an office in Laguna Beach.

Standing on the stretch of boardwalk where tidal flows were pushing mounds of debris just beneath his feet, Grubert said, “It’s humbling.”

The flows of muddy water stopped wandering homeless people in their tracks, unable to cross Broadway, leaving them scratching their heads about how to proceed, all their worldly belongings crammed into backpacks and satchels.

Downtown, the core of Laguna Beach village, is covered with mud -– in some places a foot deep -- and rains are continuing to fall. Most streets are closed, but some cars were abandoned on Pacific Coast Highway with mud halfway up their hubcaps.

Emergency responders were diverting traffic to higher elevation. Broadway, the main drag through town, ends just a few feet from Pacific Coast Highway in a waterfall.

A storm drain channel that normally diverts excess water beneath downtown and into the ocean was surging over its barriers, exploding onto Beach Street, ripping down a chain-link fence and sending water spraying up to 15 feet into the air.

By 7 a.m., residents from surrounding hillside homes were gathering downtown to share notes about their plight with others. Among them was Summer Meek, 43, a lifelong Laguna Beach resident who was sipping coffee and shaking her head in disbelief as Orange County flood control crews pumped excess water out of storm drains at the corner of Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway.

Just a few yards away was a log that had been washed down from the hills and left in the middle of the road.

“Can you imagine the forces at work that left that thing sitting there,” Meek said. She expressed concern about a friend of her family whose office in Laguna Canyon was said to have been washed away by flooding. 


Photos: Series of storms hits Southern California

Laguna Beach shop owners assess damage during break in the rain

Huge storm floods Laguna Beach, traps residents; O.C. evacuations underway

-- Louis Sahagun in Laguna Beach

Photo: The area where PCH and Broadway meet in downtown Laguna Beach was washed away by the latest storm. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Time