The raging San Lorenzo River took a sharp right turn Wednesday tearing through the beach in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and threatening serious damage.
It was staved off before 6 p.m., but Seaside Company officials have a crew working to protect the 105-year-old historical landmark and tourist attraction.
Seaside Company President Charles Canfield, breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday evening as the tide started to drop and the San Lorenzo River stopped gushing toward the oldest sections of the century-old tourist attraction.
"That could have done some real damage," he said. "I've never seen it like this."
The river, filled with as much as 5.9 inches of runoff from the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 24 hours before 6 p.m., hurtled through Santa Cruz and instead of rushing out its mouth just south of the amusement park, took a sharp right turn toward the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Giant Dipper.
It came up to the pilings of the Boardwalk, but luckily, it held to the newer concrete sections. Had it gone slightly further west, it could have badly damaged the old wooden sections, Canfield's crew members said.
By noon, the diverted river was sweeping away a foot of sand from the once-wide beachfront each minute and digging a new channel.
Seaside officials called in two Granite Construction trucks to shovel sand away from the sandbar and to build a wall to protect the Boardwalk.
Canfield said the city had let the sand pile up at the river's mouth during the quiet winter and the sandbar served as a bumper, turning the river toward the beach in front of the Boardwalk.
He hired a crew to immediately wall up the river, rather than wait for the city to do something, "because I want to have a Boardwalk this summer."
They put up lights to work overnight, if needed.
While it rained less than an inch on the beach Wednesday, the hills of Ben Lomond saw almost six inches, according to the National Weather Service. Some of the areas along the San Lorenzo got as much as three inches.
There is a 50 percent chance of rain Thursday, an 80 percent chance for Friday and a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms predicted for Saturday.