40 years ago, Santa Cruz County’s most deadly storm

Santa Cruz officials were out in the San Lorenzo River benchlands Monday
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Ahead of the most intense part of Wednesday storm, dangerous winter storms in Santa Cruz often conjure up memories of 1982’s disastrous storm.

Talk of dangerous winter storms in Santa Cruz County usually ends up at some point at the storm of 1982, a disaster of such magnitude that 22 people died. Some of them were never found.

The storm of ’82 cost an estimated $100 million in damage, which could be twice that in today’s dollars.

The dates of that catastrophe storm? Yep, Jan. 3-5, 41 years ago today.

Santa Cruz storm of 1982
(Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce)

The central tragedy of that great storm was the landslide at Love Creek near Ben Lomond when more than half a million cubic yards of saturated soil collapsed and buried nine houses, destroyed several others, and killed 10 people while they slept in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 5. There was only one survivor. WriterGary Griggs said that the amount of mud and debris that came down that night would fill 60,000 dump trucks. It was one of about 18,000 mud slides and debris flows that occurred across the Bay Area that deadly winter.

The December before the ’82 disaster had brought a series of rainstorms that had saturated the ground across the county. In the 24-hour period that included the Love Creek slide, 8.23 inches of rain had fallen in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


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