A Northern California city has declared a state of emergency after high waves and heavy rain driven by the El Nino system have eroded cliffs, leaving oceanfront apartment buildings in danger of falling into the Pacific.
Authorities in Pacifica, a town of around 40,000 people 15 miles southwest of San Francisco, declared a state of emergency Friday due to accelerated erosion of the cliffs along Esplanade Avenue and Palmetto Avenue.
On Monday afternoon, an apartment building along Esplanade became the at least the third property to be evacuated. Police fanned out to post yellow tags on 20 apartment doors, giving residents access to move their belongings out.
"That's scary," Pacifica Police Chief Daniel Steidle told KTVU, referring to the eroding cliffs out the apartment windows. "I wouldn't want to be in those buildings right now. It's very scary to look at that."
Some residents were more willing to leave than others.
"You guys are going to have to physically drag me out," Michelle McKay told Steidle. "I'm not leaving!"
McKay and other residents told KTVU that due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area, finding a place they can afford long-term will be a challenge. "I have nowhere to go and no money to go there," McKay said through tears.
Pacifica has dealt with coastal erosion that threatens properties before. Scores of units were evacuated in 2010 after heavy storms began shearing off large sections of the cliffs. In 1998, the last time a major El Nino storm hit, residents of one home managed to flee just before it collapsed over the eroded bluff.
The soaking winter rainstorms that have hit California with a vengeance are forecast to continue through March.