The Coast News Group
Hurricane Hilary did not do this, but someone did. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Look what the rain brought

Having been brought up in Southern California, I look at rain with amazement. Water falling from the sky is, to me, rare, beautiful and almost sacred in its rhythmic chords.

Rain always meant new life. Brown hills turned green, wildflowers sprouted along roads and a dirty world was made clean again.

For surfers, rain meant you could pretty much be alone in the ocean. Hey, you’re getting wet anyway, we all reasoned at the time.

Rain was also beneficial in that it brought sand flowing down the rivers to form those sandbars that stacked up near river mouths and other outlets, making temporary and perfect surf spots that were there one day and gone the next. Rain was our friend.

Recently, however, rain became our enemy. It damaged crops and homes and poured millions of gallons of pollutants into Southern California’s No. 1 playground, the ocean.

Newspaper headlines screamed clichés like, “Savage Storm Sweeps Southland.” News stations warned us to stay off the roads and move to higher ground. Get your free sandbags, and above all, stay clear of the ocean, they cautioned. The surf, they said, is about to reach apocalyptic proportions.

After a night of gentle rain, I drove to Oceanside Pier to find half a dozen surfers splitting as many 1- to 2-foot peaks. Meanwhile, back in town, tourists, many of whom come from regions that have real weather, gathered in shorts and Aloha shirts at local cafés, woofing down bacon and eggs before strolling up the pier to watch those crazy surfers battle the sea.

Now, I am not saying Hurricane Hilary was a mere media event that caused no significant damage. There are, no doubt, regions throughout California and Baja that have been walloped by her full impact. The damage I saw this morning, however, was not the result of wind and rain, but the foolish and inconsiderate among us who are slowly and selfishly ruining a shared treasure.

One big problem facing us all is the disappearance of porous land as vast coastal areas are paved to make way for freeways, shopping centers and housing developments without thought for the toxic runoff this will cause.

Over-development is a double whammy as the increase in roads, malls and look-alike housing tracts mean more cars. More cars mean more oil. More oil means that, with nowhere else to go, the ocean becomes the recipient of a dirty fluid that does not mix with water.

Also flowing down our gutters during a storm is animal feces, bug spray and chemical fertilizers. I realize this is not as sexy a story as a hurricane, but I nonetheless wonder, where is the news regarding this, an event we have full control over?

Last time I was at Seaside Reef, I noticed the parking lot was filled to capacity. I love that people are using this once out of the way facility more often, but I noticed there were no trash cans within reach of most of them.

It is not Rob Machado’s job to empty the trash. It’s ours, and we can partially pass the buck to the state that charges $15-$20 for a rectangular space of asphalt. I don’t remember that being a problem when Seaside was a privately owned parking lot.

We can blame Hilary for many things but must lay off that blowhard in terms of damage done. Most of that can be laid at the feet of another blowhard that also begins with an “H” — humanity.

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