STORM WATCH: Evacuation orders downgraded to warnings in Santa Cruz County, high-rain mark hits 9 inches

Signs on mountain roads Wednesday night continued to advise people to stay out of areas in debris-flow zones.
Signs on mountain roads Wednesday night continued to advise people to stay out of areas in debris-flow zones in Santa Cruz County. On Thursday, evacuation orders were downgraded.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

LIVE UPDATES & RESOURCES: With the ‘atmospheric river storm’ hitting the Santa Cruz area, Lookout has the latest news to help keep you safe, along with resources for evacuees.

In this article, you will find:

Latest updates

Jan. 28 | 12:15 p.m.: San Lorenzo Valley residents can now begin to return home after days of mandatory evacuation orders.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday increased the number of deputies patrolling the valley to help residents “get home and get settled” now that the evacuation orders have been downgraded to warnings, Deputy Chief Chris Clark said in a news conference.

The sheriff’s office had 10 deputies patrolling the valley overnight on Wednesday, and things had gone smoothly — no major hazards, no reports of suspicious activity or reports of burglaries, Clark said.

As of this morning, there were “some minor mud and rock” debris on roadways, county Public Works Director Matt Machado said in the news conference.

All roads within the CZU burn scar were open. County crews were out cleaning up, but some road blocks could persist, he said. A few roads remained blocked by flooding, small mudslides and downed trees as of Thursday.

”Be extra careful in the burn scar area,” Machado advised motorists.

The ‘atmospheric river’ has passed. Here’s how much rain the Santa Cruz area saw — and what to expect going forward.

Although some parts of the CZU burn scar did surpass the estimated rain threshold for debris flow, there was no evidence of any flows this week. The county’s geologists were doing reconnaissance work to assess what happened, and whether changes to metrics that trigger evacuation zones are needed, according to Machado.

“If they can see evidence that we can adjust those thresholds, we will,” he said.

All Temporary Evacuation Points in Santa Cruz County are now closed, but the county’s evacuee hotline (831) 454-2181 will be accessible through the afternoon, county spokesperson Jason Hoppin said. Red Cross hotel vouchers will expire on Thursday, according to Hoppin.

As of midnight Thursday morning, the Red Cross was providing 211 hotel rooms for 499 evacuees from Santa Cruz and neighboring counties, a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile Warren Blier, a meteorologist for the Bay Area National Weather Service, said the maximum 24-hour rain total he saw recorded for the county was 9.08 inches at one of the highest locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lower-lying urban areas average closer to 4 inches, he said.

10:32 a.m.: All evacuation orders in Santa Cruz County have been moved to warnings, the county announced Thursday morning.

Orders had been issued for debris-flow zones in the Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Felton and Santa Cruz County fire districts. Those areas were downgraded to warning zones. Specifically, those zones are:

• Ben Lomond Fire District (Zones: 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)

Warnings remain in effect for Last Chance Road area, and for parts of the Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and Felton fire districts. Specifically, those zones are:

• Last Chance Road Area (Zones: CRZ-E002A)

• Ben Lomond Fire District (Zones: BEN-E001C, BEN-E004C)

• Boulder Creek Fire District (Zones: BOU-E038, BOU-E001 BOU-E010A, BOU-E021, BOU-E031, BOU-E036B, BOU-E037)

• Felton Fire District (Zones: FEL- E003D, FEL-E002B, FEL-E005A)

Though warnings are less severe than orders, warnings still mean “there is a high potential for danger” and residents of those areas should be prepared to evacuate “on a moment’s notice,” according to a Cal Fire news release.

To view a map of zones, click here, or go to the “evacuation maps” section of this story.

Though there no debris flows in Santa Cruz County, a major flow did strike in Monterey County, near the Carmel/River burn scars.

Forecast updates

Jan. 28, 4 a.m., from the National Weather Service: “The radar is still active with the AR [atmospheric river] straddling the region, roughly from Santa Cruz-Santa Clara southward across Monterey and San Benito counties. Rain rates are currently peaking around two tenths [of an inch] per hour with some bright banding. These rates are below debris flow thresholds, however now soils are becoming increasingly saturated so both debris flow and minor rock/mudslides will become increasingly likely where moderate to heavy rain rates occur. Will continue to closely monitor all burn areas this morning and through the day today. New warnings and advisories will be possible through the day. In the short term have expired the Wind Advisory as of 4 a.m. for the Central Coast. In terms of 24 hour rain totals the winner so far is Chalk Peak in southern Monterey County with a reading of 9.65 inches and still raining.”

Read more about the forecast here.

Power outage updates

Power lines stock image
(via Pixabay)

The PG&E outage tracking map shows updates on outages in the Santa Cruz County area. You can see the utility company’s outage tracker map here. Lookout will have updates on outages as more are reported.

The utility has set up a base camp in Scotts Valley, at the Graham Hill Showgrounds, and activated its operations emergency center in Santa Cruz on Tuesday.

Crews are on standby, according to utility spokesperson Mayra Tostado, as are stockpiles of replacement power poles, transformers, power line and other equipment that may be damaged.

“PG&E is encouraging customers to be prepared and have a plan in case of weather-related power outages,” Tostado said via email.

Latest road closures

A debris flow warning sign in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
(Cal Fire)

The Santa Cruz County Public Works Department maintains a database of real-time road closures to roads maintained by the county. For the latest impacts to highways, see Cruz511.

Here’s a list of weather-related closures as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday:

  • SCHULTIES RD (PM 1.15) — Closed due to a mudslide, likely to be closed for several days.
  • BUENA VISTA DR (at 1200 block) — Remains closed due to partial flooding.
  • MORRILL CUTOFF RD (near Soquel San Jose Road) — Closed as of 10:45 a.m. due to downed tree and electrical wires.

Evacuation zones

A map showing 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.

As of 10:30 a.m. Thursday, all evacuation orders were reduced to evacuation warnings for Santa Cruz County.

Evacuation updates

Temporary evacuation site at San Lorenzo Valley High School
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Red Cross was sheltering evacuees at a dozen regional hotels, including 10 in Santa Cruz County. Hotel vouchers were set to expire on Thursday, since evacuation orders were downgraded to evacuation warnings for Santa Cruz County.

As of midnight Wednesday, the Red Cross had sheltered 381 evacuees in 198 hotel rooms throughout Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Mateo counties, according to spokesperson Jim Burns. Visit Santa Cruz County is also compiling lodging options for displaced residents. View their list here.

What to pack in your ‘go bag’

File image of luggage and backpacks
(via Pixabay)

Pack two emergency kits, one quickly accessible in your house and one in your car. This requires extra care during the covid pandemic: be sure to include face masks in your evacuation go-bag. has some insight into what you should pack in your emergency kit. They suggest storing your things in airtight plastic bags and to put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry plastic bins or duffel bags. Here’s what to pack:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishables)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Depending on your needs, you may also consider packing these additional things in your go-bags:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

With the ‘atmospheric river’ weather event approaching, here’s everything you need to know about staying safe from...

What to do if you’re evacuating animals and livestock

Cat in kennel
(via Pixabay)

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is working in coordination with the Equine Evacuation team to provide emergency animal services, according to the shelter’s website.

Small pets: The shelter will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day to intake evacuated animals. Pets can stay at the shelter located at 1001 Rodriguez Street at no cost. The shelter does ask evacuees to first exhaust all efforts to house pets with friends and family. For more information, call (831) 454-7200, Ext: 0.

Livestock and horses: Equine Evac will be helping people until 4 p.m. Tuesday: 831-708-8998. Also, you can go to Quail Hollow Ranch County Park at 800 Quail Hollow Road in Felton for assistance.

Non-livestock pets can be kept with you at the designated emergency evacuation sites listed above. Shelter volunteers will be delivering pet supplies to those sites as needed.

Emergency and non-emergency phone numbers

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