SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) — The recent storms caused dramatic changes to one Santa Cruz beach, with several years worth of sand dropped in just one week.
Surfers in the area couldn’t be more thrilled.
The USGS is still gathering and crunching their data, but says it’s possible that the recent atmospheric river dumped 5 to 10 years’ worth of sand near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.
As Santa Cruz dries out from a week of intense storms, scientists say the waves seen in the area are further evidence of the awesome power of Mother Nature.
Every winter, storm runoff creates a sandbar at the mouth of the river, causing waves to break where there are none at other times of the year.
But after the recent storms, the sandbar is likely bigger than it’s been in quite some time.
You know, a month ago waves weren’t breaking out there, because there’s no sand there, explained Patrick Barnard with the US Geological Survey. It was much deeper. And now the sand is washed down from this storm. It’s built this delta out and now you have a really nice surf break and you have a guy out there enjoying.
And so researchers from the USGS spent the day zipping up and down the coastline in vessels equipped with high-tech sonar equipment to map the sea floor.
Oceanographers are also using time lapse photography to study the waves.
The data being collected is all to answer the big questions: how big is that sandbar and how much new sand got dumped here?
It’s hard to say, but it’s probably several hundred thousand cubic meters of sand, said Barnard. So if you figure one dump truck is about 10 cubic meters of sand, it could be several thousand dump trucks worth of sand deposited in this single event over the last week or so.
Once they are done collecting the sonar data, they’ll create a map to show the dramatic changes in the sea floor.
It’s definitely going to affect how the coast evolves over the next couple of years, said Barnard.
At the end of the day in Santa Cruz, it all eventually comes back to surfing. Local surfer Homer Henard says if a big swell hits, that sandbar is going to make for some good times.
All the surfers love it when it rains a lot because all the rivers flow and all the waves kind of get good, said Henard.
The clock is ticking. Sandbars are usually at their most dramatic at the end of a storm before they start to erode and flatten out over time. Word is there will be a swell hitting the California coast in about 36 hours.