Jen Hastings
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Local)
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Morning Lookout: Preparing for more storms, pesticide exposure among children, and more unsung heroes

Happy New Year’s to you, dear readers. Welcome to 2023. I’m Tamsin McMahon, Lookout’s managing editor. Will is off on a much-deserved break this week. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 3 and we’re getting a brief reprieve from the rain, before more showers roll in on Wednesday.

There’s plenty of new Lookout for a new year, so roll up your sleeves and dig in.
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County residents are being told to prepare for yet another storm late Tuesday into Wednesday, forecasted to be more severe than the deluge that killed one person just days earlier. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and “dangerously strong” winds to the coast starting late tonight or early tomorrow. As much as 3-6 inches of rain could fall across the county, and as much as 10 inches to areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains, raising the risk of more flooding and mudslides. Read more of our storm coverage here.

As part of our ongoing coverage of pesticide use near children and schools, Lookout’s Community Voices editor Jody K. Biehl and photojournalist Kevin Painchaud spoke to six Watsonville berry pickers. All of them are mothers and they offered harrowing accounts of the effects of working around pesticides on themselves and their children, including cancer, asthma and learning disorders. Hear their stories in their own words with video interviews.

And lastly, our Unsung Santa Cruz series continues by shining a spotlight on Pauline Seales. A climate activist who has worked behind the scenes on high-profile political campaigns, Seales also quietly works to restore fragile habitats and teach students and young adults about environmental issues. Blaire Hobbs shares Seales’ story.

The children of Santa Cruz county farmworkers exposed to pesticides are suffering. Hear their mother’s voices.

Elvia Pineda Ortiz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Pesticides harm children. That’s the message we got while talking to close to two dozen farmworkers — mostly mothers — at a Watsonville holiday food giveaway in December. Close to 83% of Santa Cruz’s 17,000 farmworkers are undocumented. Fear of deportation keeps them quiet, submissive, nearly invisible. Even when they are sick. Even when their kids are sick. But some did talk to us, did share their struggles. Hear their stories.

MORE COVERAGE OF PESTICIDE USE: Pressure mounts on pesticides near schools — especially those on Pajaro Valley outskirts

Santa Cruz County cleans up from a weekend storm and prepares for an even bigger one

(Cori Land)

As residents and emergency crews continue cleaning up from Saturday’s deluge, preparations are underway across Santa Cruz County for another atmospheric river — the third to hit the region since Christmas.

The City of Santa Cruz said it will formally activate its Emergency Operations Center, a multi-agency, interdepartmental effort that city manager Matt Huffaker says hasn’t been activated since the CZU fires and pandemic. The city plans to declare a local emergency for the damage sustained from the weekend storm and the expected damage from Wednesday’s storm. Read the story from Max Chun, Christopher Neely and Kevin Painchaud.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Santa Cruz County cleans up from New Year’s Eve storm

One dead as atmospheric river prompts evacuations, landslides and road closures across Santa Cruz County

Unsung Santa Cruz: Climate activist Pauline Seales bridges generational divides on environmental issues

Pauline Seales hanging out with the plants outside
(Via Pauline Seales)

Retired teacher, Pauline Seales has worked behind the scenes on some of the county’s most high-profile environmental campaigns. But beyond political issues, Seales works with youth to restore fragile natural habitats and raise awareness about the changing climate. Read Blaire Hobbs’ profile of Pauline here.

UNSUNG SANTA CRUZ: Lookout highlights regular folks doing great things.


toad fitness group

Santa Cruz County Job Board

One more thing before I go: Lookout is working on an ongoing series exploring working life and we’d love your input. How did you get your job? What do you love most about it? What are the biggest challenges? What do students and recent graduates need to know about how to get into your industry? Share your stories and career advice with us — email us at and put “career advice” in the subject line.

There’s more to come from Lookout this week. Stay current by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and by signing up here for breaking news alerts and for our other newsletters, including the specially curated Sunday Reads.

Thanks to all our members for being the bedrock for Lookout’s local journalism — we really couldn’t do all we do without your support, and we look forward to even more ambitious reporting in 2023. Our content isn’t possible without community support, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

Here’s wishing everyone a great start to this new year.

Tamsin McMahon
Lookout Santa Cruz