Santa Cruz County expects soil to fail soon, downed trees and landslides to follow

Workers prepare sandbags at Ramsay Park in Watsonville ahead of January's storms.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Among the chief concerns heading into Wednesday’s bomb cyclone was the integrity of already saturated soil along the county’s sloping topography. As the rain and wind begins to pick up into the late afternoon and evening, county officials expect landslides, downed trees and other dangerous conditions.

“The saturated soil from the prior storm is going to start failing in small and big ways,” David Reid, director of the county’s Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience, tells me. “With the saturated soils, on top of the wind, on top of the heavy rain, we expect landslides and debris to cause issues.”

Road closures and evacuation orders and warnings are beginning to pile up across the county. Reid says the county will be unable to keep up with the road closure map as the storm intensifies, and that the county likely will not know the full extent of impassable roads until late Thursday.

“We advise folks to consider sheltering in place or getting to a safe location and out of harm’s way before this evening,” Reid says.

Reid says about 30 people are working at the county’s emergency operations center, monitoring river levels, wind speeds and rain intensity. He expects the “most intense flooding” to arrive by early Thursday morning.


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