File image of rain dripping down window
A stormy Cement Ship in Aptos on Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Government

Santa Cruz County storm watch: Rain causes over 18,000 to lose power; evac warning in San Lorenzo Valley

An atmospheric river that began moving slowly on Sunday from Northern California toward Southern California caused thousands of Central Coast residents to lose power. An evacuation warning has also been issued in parts of the CZU burn scar areas.

UPDATE (5:28 p.m.): The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation warnings Monday evening for the CZU Fire burn areas including parts of Felton, and significant portions of Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond. In addition, because of rising levels of the San Lorenzo River, the areas around Paradise Park and Felton Grove are also under evacuation warnings.

For a detailed look at which areas are under evacuation warnings, click here.

The Weather What: A large storm in Northern California brought strong winds and heavy, lingering rainfall to the Santa Cruz area, causing 18,000 in the county to lose power Monday.

The Weather So What: While several inches of rain and wind gusts up to 20 mph have caused minor flooding and downed power lines in the county so far, PG&E and local officials are diligently monitoring a storm that could potentially bring more rainfall and some debris flow in the CZU fire burn scars. Hundreds of PG&E crews and dozens of tree crews are working to clear hazards in order to restore power. As of Monday afternoon, about 16,800 customers had seen power restored.

Backgrounder: The National Weather Service was forecasting at least another inch of rain for the region into Monday night. A wind advisory was to be in effect until 4 p.m., with gusts of up to 40 mph expected; a flash flood watch was in effect from 4-10 p.m. for CZU fire burn areas.

At least two roads have been closed down by the storm. Bear Creek Road and Ice Cream Grade were closed to all traffic Monday morning due to downed wires from fallen trees, according to the county’s road closure online dashboard.

Some debris flow occurred around noon on the southern edge of Boulder Creek above Highway 9, according to Mark Strudley, flood control program manager for the County of Santa Cruz.

He said it was unclear if it was large enough of a debris flow to make it down to the highway or if it had caused any damage.

“That activity is occurring,” he said. “It should be a key piece of information for residents to be knowledgeable about moving into the storm tonight.”

The storm has also caused concerns for populations living near flood-prone areas near Evergreen Cemetery and the south end of the benchlands along the San Lorenzo River at Branciforte Creek. Santa Cruz city staff were out at both locations informing and encouraging unhoused residents to seek drier areas.

The city’s public works department opened the second floor of the River Street garage as a shelter for people living in those areas; it was to remain open until conditions improve.

Voices: “We have made great progress restoring power in the county, but we want customers to know that more outage activity is expected throughout the day as the storm impacts continue to be felt in the region,” PG&E said in a statement. “Strong winds are expected in higher elevations, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, where customers with outdoor furniture should secure it for safety.”

What’s next: The National Weather Service expected about an inch of rain to hit the region into Monday night, and lesser amounts to fall through Thursday.

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Strudley, the flood control program manager, said officials are keeping an eye on the San Lorenzo River as it nears flood stage.

“The river levels have crested above the monitor stage in the Felton Grove area, and that’s about 14 feet in water surface elevation,” he said Monday afternoon. “The flood stage there is 16.5 feet, so it’s not too far below flood stage and we are monitoring things very closely.”