Heavy Rain Causes OC Mess

Rain is welcome, but dirty beaches, flooding are unwelcome side effects

The people who monitor Orange County's coastline say it doesn't take much to make the ocean dirty. In fact, they say just a fraction of an inch can push the bacteria levels at some popular beaches right off the chart.

You can blame it on urban runoff. Experts say, with the beginning of each rainy season, oily streets and dirty tires conspire to turn all that pure, natural rain water into a toxic soup that can last for days.

"You’ve got rain up in the foothills that may not get down here until tomorrow," says Newport Beach Water Quality Manager John Kappeler. "That rainwater is carrying pollutants as well, so when the rain stops, it doesn’t mean the water quality is going to improve instantly."

The Orange County Health Care Agency tests 150 coastal sites from Seal Beach to San Clemente. Lab workers are looking for everything from E. coli to bird-borne bacteria. If the contamination goes beyond 72 hours, or is above safe levels, beaches will be closed.

Sean Maples didn't care. He had the day off and drove to the beach from Arcadia to do more than dip his toe in the water.

"Of course, now it's just stormier and the conditions have just gotten worse and it's just not fun," he lamented.

In Newport Beach, strong winds made the beach look more like a wet Sahara Desert, while in Huntington Beach, some people decided to brave the elements for a nice winter walk. Or so they thought.  It turned out to be more of a cold, wet, slosh. 

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