January 5, 2023 Storm at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

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On the morning of January 5, 2023, a series of waves broke through the back doors at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, flooding the interior of the gift shop and museum. Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association staff members got a call from the alarm company at 8:35am, and both State Parks and PCLK staff arrived on site by 8:45am.

Mud, gravel, rocks and ocean water coated the floor from the back doors to the front door, and museum exhibits were pushed to the east side of the fog signal building. The southern back door was up against the easternmost wall, and the northern back door was hanging onto the wall by a thread. Seawater had clearly splashed around the building quite a bit, because mud was found near the top of the windows in the museum, near seven feet high.

After arriving on the scene, Jen Lewis met with the California State Parks team on hand, alerted the PCLK board members, then headed up the stairs to check on the Fresnel lens. The lens had not been hurt in any way, and Jen spent an extra moment upstairs to record a set of tall waves rolling toward the cliffs. As the waves came closer, she realized they were going to hit the Lighthouse again, and heard the State Parks employees downstairs yell “DON’T COME DOWN, STAY UP THERE” as the ocean water swamped through the first floor again at 8:55am. Jen recounts her story in this episode of the USLHS podcast, Light-Hearted.

The video below shows a contrast between a quiet November day and the morning of January 5, 2023.

Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association staff and volunteers worked with California State Parks rangers and maintenance staff to push the mud and gravel out of the building, and began separating damaged and undamaged gift shop product. They worked through the morning and afternoon, then sealed up the back doors with plywood.

Over the next three weeks, volunteers and staff worked hard to dry everything in the museum out. Fans ran 24/7 for those weeks to air everything out, and volunteers took home gift shop product to clean and dry. The Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association sends a big thank you to all the volunteers, and everyone who has donated and sent their support during the cleanup process.

Thousands of dollars of gift shop inventory was lost, and the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse gift shop and museum was closed from January 5 through January 27. Many of the museum displays will need to be replaced, along with replacing the destroyed double doors. Overall, the cost of this storm damage is in the tens of thousands.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is now back open to the public every day from 11am – 4pm, staffed by the incredible volunteers that make this place so special. There is a selection of sale items that were damaged in the January 5 storm, available for 25% and 40% off, as supplies last.

Waves have crashed through the back doors of the lighthouse on two other occasions, on December 24, 1928 and February 8, 1960. January 5, 2023 is now a part of the storm history at Point Cabrillo Light Station.

To ensure this national treasure for current and future generations, the mission of the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association is to manage, protect, restore, interpret, and provide public access to the historic Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. PCLK is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and donations are tax-deductible.

Storm Damage and Cleanup Video

The video below is a compilation of clips from January 5 – January 28, covering the cleanup process at Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park.