5,000 under debris flow evacuation orders in Santa Cruz County ahead of storm

Utility trucks and cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Jan. 25, 2021.
Utility trucks and cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Jan. 25, 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

An evacuation order has been issued for numerous areas of Santa Cruz County, citing an “immediate threat to life” from debris flows from predicted heavy rains.

Cal Fire and Santa Cruz County announced an evacuation order Monday morning for numerous parts of the San Lorenzo Valley and the North Coast area of Swanton, citing an “immediate threat to life” as “a high wind and heavy rain event” is predicted to increase the risk of debris flows. Three temporary shelters were being set up in Felton, Scotts Valley and Davenport for evacuees, officials also announced.

About 2,800 structures housing 5,000 people are impacted by the order, officials said during a news conference.

“I couldn’t stress more the need to follow the evacuation order that we put out this morning,” Deputy Chief Chris Clark of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said. “You’ll be able to come back once this passes us but we don’t know yet what’s going to happen in the valley.”

The following zones have been issued the evacuation order according to Cal Fire CZU (see map below). Here’s the list of zones as of 9:20 p.m. on Monday night:

  • Ben Lomond Fire District (Zones: BEN-EE01B, BEN-E001D, BEN-E002A, BEN-E002D, BEN-E004B)
  • Boulder Creek Fire District (Zones: BOU-E021A, BOU-E020, BOU-E017, BOU-E016, BOU-E010, BOU-E006, BOU-E001A, BOU-E002, BOU-E033A, BOU-E038A, BOU-E031B, BOU-E030, BOU-E018A, BOU-E014, BOUE009, BOU-E003, BOU-E001B, BOU-E015A, BOU-E039A, BOU-E040A)
  • Felton Fire District (Zones: FEL-E002A, FEL-E003B, FEL-E003C, FELE004A)
  • Santa Cruz County Fire Dept. (Zones: CRZ-E001B, CRZ-E001D, CRZE002B, CRZ-E003B, CRZ-E003D, CRZ-E006B, CRZ-E006C, CRZ-E007A, CRZ-E017A, CRZ-E017C)

A map with the zones subject to evacuation order is below. In the event this map isn’t appearing correctly, click here.

Zones marked red are under the immediate evacuation order and should leave now, and those marked yellow are under an evacuation warning meaning “individuals need to be prepared to leave immediately with a ‘go bag’ and planned evacuation route,” according to a Cal Fire news release.

Temporary Evacuation Points

The Red Cross will open three temporary evacuation points at noon Monday in the following locations:

  • San Lorenzo Valley High School at 7105 Highway 9, Felton
  • Scotts Valley Community Center at 360 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley
  • Pacific Elementary School at 50 Ocean Street, Davenport
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    Santa Cruz Regional 9-1-1 uses the CodeRED community notification system to send important messages in the event of emergencies, including potential debris flows this week.

Each of the evacuation points will offer people places to park their cars for extended periods of time, refreshments, bathrooms, charging stations and pet food.

But officials say these locations will not be set up as congregate shelters for evacuees. For people who need help finding shelter, the Red Cross will be available to help.

A call center has been set up at (831) 454-2181, and more evacuation and shelter information, including what COVID-19 precautions will be in place, is available here: Santa Cruz County Temporary Evacuation Center

Watch Santa Cruz County officials’ Monday morning press conference below:

Steps to take if a debris flow is predicted within a certain time.
(Santa Cruz County)

A debris flow is distinct from a landslide in that it’s made up of a variety of “particles” — things like loose soil, vegetation, trees and boulders — that move independently of each other, versus a landslide in which a chunk of land or mud moves as one piece, or a mudslide, when land on a slope gets so wet it begins to flow like water.

This week’s debris flow threat is being fueled by forecasts calling for upwards of eight inches of rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains starting Tuesday and extending into Thursday.

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