The winter of 1983 brought strong storms and unusually high surf to the Southern California coast. On the back of a record breaking El Niño, a series of storms lashed the coast, damaging numerous structures from Padaro Lane to Miramar Beach, as well as Stearns Wharf and Santa Barbara Harbor. Swollen Refugio Creek claimed the life of a teen-aged girl. On January 28, as a storm surge rode a full-moon high tide, waves in excess of seven feet crashed into houses along Edgecliff Lane and Miramar Beach, leaving about 40 homes badly damaged. Another 50 homes, from Santa Barbara to Ventura, also sustained damage.
The following night, another storm dropped nearly two inches of rain, accompanied by 51-mph winds recorded in Santa Barbara Harbor. By morning, the storm had knocked out power to more than 36,000 Edison customers and uprooted hundreds of trees countywide.
On March 2, waves topping 20 feet crashed into Stearns Wharf and took out more than 50 pilings. The nearby Santa Barbara Yacht Club was severely damaged and the harbor filled with wreckage and debris. Damages to the harbor alone were estimated at $1.5 million. Waves destroyed four homes and damaged dozens more on Padaro Lane. Seaside roads were flooded by stormsurf and excessive rainfall.