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15 minutes after breaching
view of the breach, 4:51pm (15 mins after), 12/13/09
Devereux Slough Breaching
December 13, 2009

page by Harold Marcuse

created Dec. 14, 2009; updated 3/24/18

Series of 5
Series of 8
Video Clips

Introduction (back to top)

  • Update 3/24/2018:
    2018: March 22 (we had about 4" of rain in the past 2 days; didn't breach during Montecito mudslide rain of Jan. 9, nor after 1" rainstorm in Feb.
    2017: Jan. 9 (see Jan. 10, 2017 KEYT story)
    2016: Jan. 6, after about 3.25" of rain locally, and more in foothills draining into slough
    2015: no breach at all--just drought!
    2014: March 1, bone dry before, then .4" and 3.4" of rain
    2013: Dec. 29, 2012
    2012: Jan. 22 (closed on Feb. 18)
    2010: Dec. 19, after 3" rain in 48 hours (1:16min video, same day, hours later)
    2009: Feb. 16
    2006: Jan.

For 17 years I've waited to see the Devereux slough, near where I live, breach into the ocean. I've seen it fill and empty many times and always wondered what it looked like when the sand berm holding the water in breached into the ocean after the first heavy downpours of the rainy season. In February 2009 I came close--saw it full at 11am and empty around 4pm--but I wasn't there to witness the actual event.

This year (Dec. 2009) I got lucky. Returning from a walk on a Sunday afternoon after a rainy weekend (about 2" of rain fell since Thursday), during which I had taken my camera "just in case," I arrived at the breach about 5-10 minutes after it started flowing into the ocean, which we'll say was 4:36pm. (It's hard to say when the tiny trickle overflowing the top will start to cut in and become a breach.) The photos and video clips below document the event.

[note: in 2017 edhat revamped its site, and all older articles are no longer available, not even in the Internet Archive. Too bad! So many links below are all dead and gone.]
I reported this event on, a local internet news site: see the Dec. 15, 2009 article with 11 user comments (including a response by me). It has some of the same pictures published below, with three more from the next day showing the view from above and birds in the exposed muck.

At the bottom of this page are some links to other pictures and videos of the Devereux slough, including a series of pictures CJ Bowdish took of the Feb. 2009 breach. The first breach of the (rainy) season is always the biggest, since it takes many high summer tides for the sand bank to build up a substantial height again.

PS. 12/23/09: The sandbar across the mouth of the breach is now high enough so that no more water is flowing out (although at high tide waves still break over the top and flow in). It was not yet closed on 12/18 (in fact, it was still flowing strongly enough that it couldn't be crossed at the surfline). I've added 2 video clips taken on Friday, 12/25/09.
PPS. 12/29/09: The sand bar across the slough mouth has built up substantially, and the slough is fairly full again--a good set-up for a second breach this season.

1/22/12: After one major storm in each of Oct. and Nov., there was essentially no rain in December until Jan. 20. The slough stayed full and breached today after filling from the continuing runoff.
On Feb. 11 or 12, after "king tides" the week before (Feb 6-7), and only [email protected] of additional rain, the breach closed.

Jan. 30, 2013: Some heavy rain in early November, more inches in late December, and the slough breached around Dec. 29, 2012. The breach closed again during the high tides in mid-January (with one or no major rains in between). [monthly precip totals; download daily precipitaton history at weather warehouse; sb county's daily totals starting in 1952--click on .xls, then UCSB dot for a spreadsheet of daily precipitation totals]

March 1, 2014: We have been in a drought, with no rain Oct-Jan. After about 0.4" of rain a few weeks ago, it rained 1.7" on 2/25/14 and 1.7" on 2/28-3/1, which caused the first breach of the season. Thus I conclude that about 4-5 inches of rain can cause a breach. However there were also very high waves (15-20') at this time, with lots of seaweed washing far into the slough (even under the conduit under Slough Road along its edge.

2015: I don't think the slough breached at all this year--so little rain, it never really filled up.

Jan. 6, 2016: On Jan. 5 we had 2.25 inches of rain at the slough, and more in the hills that drain into it. In December we had maybe 1" of rain locally. Around 6pm on Jan. 5 a small rivulet was draining from the slough into the ocean. On Jan. 6 early in the day another 1" of rain fell, and by that afternoon the slough had breached. Conclusion: 3+ inches of rain on a basically empty slough (with higher accumulations in the hills draining into it) can bring the slough to breach. Jan. 10 is new moon, so the tides have been fairly high, and high waves had been washing over the berm prior to the breach. (There's also a fair amount of washed-in kelp left behind after the breach.)
1/10/16: It was still breached on Saturday (Jan. 9) evening, but already on Sunday morning, when the tide got up to 6.3 ft at 9am, the breach was closed again, with lots of water in the slough. It rained a small amount (<0.1") that day, so mostly from the drainage from the foothills the slough was quite full again on 1/11.

Aerial view/map of Devereux Slough

(back to top)

15 minutes after breaching
12 minutes after breaching (4:48 pm, just as I arrived)

15 minutes after breaching
15 minutes after breaching
15 minutes after breaching (2nd shot)29 minutes after breaching
29 minutes after breaching
view out to sea, 30 mins after breaching
view out to sea, 32 minutes after breaching (platform Holly and a barge are visible)

Soon After the Breach Started: Video (back to top)

0:14 clip (#0) taken by someone on the other side of the breach,
shortly before I arrived on the scene

1:58 min clip (#1) started at 4:46pm, about 10 minutes after the breach began. (link)
(310 views on 12/30/09)

1:02 min clip (#2) started at 5:00pm, ca. 24 minutes after the breach began. (link; back to top)

0:47 min clip (#3) taken 31 mins. into the breach, at 5:07pm on Dec. 13, 2009 (link; back to top)

1:34 clip (#4) taken 24 hours after the breach: 4:51pm on Dec. 14, 2009 (link; back to top)

1:42 clip (#5), also made 24 hours later

0:30 clip (#6) of the breach seen from above, made 12 days later (link; back to top)

0:49 clip (#7) taken at the again-closed breach, 12 days later (link)
note that the bent iron fence poles visible in clip 5 are already completely buried under the sand bar

Links (back to top)

:Later breaches (back to top)

  1. The slough breached for the first time in the 2010 season on Dec. 19, 2010. I made a youtube clip (1:16) later in the day, around 4:45pm.
  2. 2013/14 first breach of the season: March 1, 2014 after .4" a week ago and 3.4" in 3 days: 4.8". Devereux slough was essentially completely dry due to the drought before that.

page created by Harold Marcuse, Dec. 14, 2009, last updated: see header
back to top, to the Harold Marcuse personal page; Harold Marcuse Faculty homepage