Story last updated at 3:46 p.m. Thursday, November 7, 2002

High tides wreak havoc on Spit
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

photo: news

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
A drydocked boat that served as home for Bob Cousins and his family lays on its hull Wednesday on Cousins' lot along the Homer Spit. The boat and others on the lot, miscellaneous debris and several vehicles were lifted and moved by the combination of a 23.2-foot high tide, 40-mph wind gusts and an inch and a half of rain. Other damage was reported to the Spit bike trail and the Fishing Hole.  
As if the heavy flooding of a few weeks ago were not enough, a 23.2-foot high tide in Kachemak Bay on Tuesday afternoon was escorted by 40-plus-mph wind gusts and heavy rains that together rearranged much of the Homer Spit.

Sections of the bike trail were destroyed, and the seaward embankment at the Fishing Hole suffered some erosion, said Public Works Director Carey Meyer.

"We won't know the full extent of the damage until later in the day," he said Wednesday morning. "With another high tide coming in, there may be more."

Close to the base of the spit, a large, dry-docked trawler where Bob Cousins and his family lived was moved about 75 feet, and turned sideways by the high water. Vehicles parked in Cousins' boatyard were submerged, and boats were pushed into one another.

Cousins could not be reached for comment.

"Oh, Bob Cousins got slammed," Meyer said. "I was down there yesterday to see if there was anything we could do, but it was a helpless feeling."

photo: neighbors

  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
Several vehicles were endangered by the rising tide Tuesday along the Homer Spit.  
Other spit residents were luckier.

"It was a little scary," said Elizabeth Chappel, who has lived along the Spit for 22 years. "You keep wondering how high it's going to go.

"We've seen high tides before, but not with that wind behind it," she said. "Usually it comes in nicely. Yesterday, it was not nice."

Chappel said the water was splashing against her dining room door, but none made it into the house -- or, amazingly, the basement.

"We have a big chunk of a tree out here on the other side of the driveway that's been there as long as we've lived here," she said. "Now it's on the other side of the yard. We also had a staircase turned around by the water.

"There was just all kinds of stuff floating around," she said.

At the other end of the Spit, the water rose high enough to splash over the railing and onto the sidewalk at the Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal.

"There was no water in the building, none in the parking lot," said manager Pat Richardson. "But there were big logs floating by, and it was interesting to watch."

Harbormaster Bill Abbott said that several large logs were pushed by the tide against a large wooden bulkhead outside the ferry terminal.

"Our public works guys are out there right now, cutting them up," he said. "We have a high tide today, too, but there's not much wind behind it."

Abbot said there was no damage in the harbor proper, though harbor employees were checking boats and calling owners.

"Down at the Fishing Hole, an observation platform where we had fish-cleaning tables set up was lifted off its supports," he said. "It was let back down, but it's crooked. They'll probably just remove it."

A spokesperson at Land's End Resort said that although the water rose up beneath the spa and deck, it did not rise high enough to enter the building or flood the parking lot.

By far, the most damage on the Spit seemed to be to Cousins' boatyard and home.

Boats floated by the water were moved around the lot, clustered together. Trucks were submerged, and an old school bus was chassis-deep in the water. Debris carried in by the tides littered the area.

Homer Mayor Jack Cushing said Wednesday that he had instructed City Manager Ron Drathman to see if the city could help the Cousins.

Meyer said damage estimates to the bike trail and the Fishing Hole were still being made.

"We lost some pavement on the bike trail, and some of the downslope embankment is threatening more of it," he said. High tide was at 2:16 p.m. Tuesday.

Though Wednesday's high tide, at 2:56 p.m., was 22.8 feet, the winds and rain were significantly more calm than the previous day. The high water was expected to come and go without fanfare.

"We've got another high tide coming, but it doesn't seem to be as windy as (Tuesday)," said Meyer. "But I didn't think the laws of physics would allow the waves to go as high as they did, so I guess anything could happen."

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homer