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Encinitas Bluff Remains Unstable Following Deadly Landslide

Police tape blocks off the section of beach in Encinitas where three women we...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Police tape blocks off the section of beach in Encinitas where three women were killed when a cliff collapsed onto them, August 5, 2019.

Structural engineers warn there could be another bluff collapse at the Encinitas Beach near Grandview Street. Three people died there Friday when huge boulders rolled off the side of the bluff onto members of a family, sitting below.

The bluff doesn’t look dangerous, but the yellow police tape tells a different story.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

City officials do not want people to get too close.

“The rocks that you see that are somewhat buried in this original location was the original failure site,” said Larry Giles, the Encinitas Lifeguard Captain.

There are still cracks in the seaside wall, and more rock could tumble onto the beach. That’s why the police tape is up.

Reported by Kris Arciaga

The collapse was a shock, because lifeguards constantly warn beach-goers about the danger.

“This is a very low-frequency type incident for us here. It’s a very significant threshold incident that... it's difficult,” Giles said.

The community left flowers and notes for the three women who died. Some of the memorial bouquets are at the top of the stairs that lead to the beach. Others are in buckets hung near the bluff.

While this event is rare, it is not unusual along the Southern California coast.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Adam Young gazes north while standing on the Scripps Pier.

“You know all of the debris here, you see these rocks at the bottom of the cliff, these are all former landslides,” Young said.

The region’s coastal cliffs have been eroding for thousands of years. Young says its part of a natural process.

“We have waves impacting the bottom of our cliffs,” Young said. “We also have rainfall, ground watering and weathering processes that can act on the cliff face and inside the cliff.”

Officials recommend people stay 25 to 40 feet away from the base of the cliff. That’s impossible sometimes because tides frequently narrow the beach to a thin strip of sand, only a few feet across.

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