Seal Beach man remembers 1983 El Nino as city gets early start on sand berm

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Heavy equipment moved sand to build a berm in Seal Beach on Tuesday.

It's a yearly event to protect property from high surf and high tides, but this year, it's going in three weeks earlier than usual due to the anticipated El Nino.

"We're building (the berm) earlier, we're building it bigger and we're building it longer," said Chief Joe Bailey of Seal Beach Marine Safety.

The El Nino of 1983 destroyed the Seal Beach Pier.

David West remembers it well. He says the water rose so high that it covered the first floor of his beachfront apartment complex.

"All the streets were full of sand. All the lights were out. No electricity for about a week," West said.

West, who goes by the nickname "Big Wave Dave," remembers surfing the huge waves, soon realizing the danger, as broken pier pilings smashed around him.

"There was pilings next to me in the water, and the waves were gnarly," he said. "The currents were incredible."

Lifeguards say it takes about two to three weeks to build the berm.
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