NewsLocal News


Avila Beach residents looking for answers after flooding forces them out of their home

Posted at 11:35 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 03:56:04-05

Floodwater continues to cover First Street in Avila Beach, forcing some people out of their homes.

San Luis Obispo County says this area is prone to flooding, but some residents are looking for the County to do more to prevent this from happening again.

What was a dream rental opportunity, quickly turned into a nightmare for Molly Maguire during the first storm of the year.

Maguire measuring flood water in her house with measuring tape

"The street outside has been flooded for weeks now off and on from the tides. So when I saw the storms and weather report, I knew the rain was coming and it wasn't going to be good for me," Maguire said.

Flood water from First Street now reaches every corner of the inside of the house.

While she was able to put her furniture up on risers in time, Maguire says much of her belongings will likely be damaged from this event.

She believes this is something that could have been prevented.

"I had a lot of frustration because the county has come in to pump the water out of the street before in order to accommodate tourists, and on warm beach days in the last couple of weeks, it's happened twice. I felt a big lack of urgency to do the same for the residents," Maguire said.

SLO County Public Works says in a statement:

We understand that people are concerned about flooding of their homes and businesses during major storms. We are too, which is why we have been working to reduce the impacts of the flooded intersection at First Street and San Francisco Street. Prior to the storm, we pumped out the intersection twice to remove nuisance water. We also obtained emergency permits to dig through a portion of the sandbar to prime the lagoon to breach the sandbar.

This intersection is a low-lying area which historically has been prone to flooding. It is only about 5’ to 7’ above sea level. The intersection area drains through a culvert with a one-way outlet valve, called a duckbill, which prevents high water in the lagoon from flowing back up the pipe into the town. Without the duckbill, flood levels in town would be much higher. This is a complicated situation that is influenced by ocean tides, waves, sandbars which raise the lagoon, and rain runoff. When these natural elements combine, as they did this week, the area is below the water level in the lagoon and will flood.

Most structures were rebuilt about 20 years ago as part of the Unocal oil spill clean-up. The inhabited spaces of the newer construction are above the flood level, with garages or other uninhabited parts of the building allowed to be below flood levels. Unfortunately, some older buildings are still in the flood zone.

In the past, we have worked with the community on various ideas to install pumps or other infrastructure to reduce the flooding, but the ideas did not move forward for various reasons. We plan to revisit this with the community to see if there is a project we can move forward together.

Maguire now has to move because of this storm. She says she plans to stay in a hotel as she looks for another place to live.