Take the baby.

The woman’s request was simple, panicked. She had fallen into a swirl of water and sand — one bubbling up from nowhere — and two young children were by her side, trapped too. The stormy mess was above her waist. She was struggling.

Kipland Howard, down on Kellogg Beach in La Playa with his wife, swooped in. He pulled one child up and out, grabbed the infant precariously perched in the woman’s arms, then reached down for her, too.

The rainy rescue on the shore of San Diego Bay happened in a flash.

A swift response from local government followed. Howard notified Unified Port of San Diego officials about the problem, which he believed was from a subterranean storm water pipe that ends short of the bay. He figures it’s normally covered by sand. But on that rainy Saturday, something turned part of the placid beach into quicksand.

Within days, someone came out and put up a chain link fence in a square around the problematic area.

There it stood for some two years. Until sometime around this summer. Howard was out on the beach near his home and noticed it was gone.

The fence is gone from this spot on Kellogg Beach in Point Loma. | Photo by Rob Davis

Problem solved? Not quite.

A few weeks ago when it rained, Howard checked the beach. In the same place he’d made that rescue, the sand had once again turned into a bubbling, sewage-smelling swirl.

On Wednesday, Howard pointed me toward a nearby pipe that routes storm water into the bay (and that sometimes creates mounds of foam). He believes a similar pipe runs through the spot where he made his rescue.

This storm drain runs into the bay. | Photo by Rob Davis

That nearby pipe is old and beat up. I spotted one gaping hole in the concrete.

The old concrete pipe is falling apart. | Photo by Rob Davis

Howard said he’s worried about what will happen when the next rain comes. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt — or worse.

“I don’t want to see anyone get trapped in this thing again,” he said. “You sure don’t know it’s here, until it rears its ugly head.”

Whatever is there underground has been in place for a long time. A rusty manhole cover on a nearby part of the storm water system is from 1925 or 1926.

I’m putting calls into the city’s storm water division and the port to find out what happened to the fence and what’s caused the problems there. Stay tuned.

Please contact Rob Davis directly at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/robwdavis.

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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