Evacuation warnings last week.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Storm aftermath: Santa Cruz County officials declare local state of emergency

Their action helps pave the way for county government to get state and federal funding to repair millions of dollars in damages to roads and other county property following the atmospheric river storm last week.

Santa Cruz County on Tuesday declared a “state of local emergency” following heavy rainstorms last week that county officials said caused millions of dollars in damages to roads and other county property.

At the request of County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios, county supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution establishing the state of emergency, which helps open the county up for potential state and federal funding.

Debris flow town halls set up by county supervisors Bruce McPherson and Ryan Coonerty to get feedback from those who...

“We have experienced significant flooding and damage to property, including, but not limited to Valencia School Road, White Road, Shulties Road and Buena Vista Drive,” Palacios told supervisors. “And then there have also been other roads damaged due to fallen trees, power lines, debris flow, landslides, slip outs and flooding from rivers and creeks.”

Though there is no firm estimate yet, Palacios said the county “definitely suffered millions of dollars” in damages. “There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

For the county, it would be difficult to rely on its own local funds to try to repair the roads, Palacios added. The county already is predicting a $4 million budget shortfall for its next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The rainstorm that swept through Santa Cruz County last week, which a National Weather Service meteorologist called a “once-in-five-years” atmospheric river, prompted evacuations of some 5,000 people in parts of the San Lorenzo Valley and the North Coast area of Swanton.

NWS officials said the maximum 24-hour rain total recorded for the county was 9.08 inches at one of the highest locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and rain totals for the entire storm exceeded 11 inches. But despite periods of high-intensity rain that officials feared would cause debris flows, no significant flows of earth were observed.

Supervisors on Tuesday also unanimously voted to extend emergency orders related to the CZU Lightning Complex fires in August as debris removal efforts continue.

“Although the County is well into the recovery period at this point, many of our community members remain displaced,” county staff wrote in report to supervisors. “Moreover, the danger created by the Fires is still present as the County continues to move through the recovery and debris removal stage with (the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services) and other government partners.”