Where we stand on Thursday evening: Storm damage and up 5 more inches of rain coming in next 2 storms

Rio Del Mar flooding on January 5, 2023
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz
)

As of Thursday, Rio del Mar and the mouth of Pajaro River have flooded, strong high tide swells have wrecked the Seacliff pier and overwhelmed Santa Cruz’s West Cliff Drive, forcing partial closure of road and an evacuation of the wharf. Across the county, at least 23 roads are closed. And while this storm has mostly subsided, two more storms will hit Santa Cruz County between Thursday and Monday.

As of Thursday afternoon, Rio del Mar and the mouth of Pajaro River have flooded, strong high tide swells have wrecked the Seacliff pier and overwhelmed Santa Cruz’s West Cliff Drive, forcing partial closure of road and an evacuation of the wharf.

Although this storm has mostly subsided, two more storms will hit Santa Cruz County between Thursday and Monday, according to National Weather Service Bay Area meteorologist Warren Blier. These storms are expected to be wetter, but with calmer winds. The next storm is forecasted to arrive on Saturday and last until Sunday night, dropping up to 2 inches in Santa Cruz and up to 5 inches in the mountains. The second storm will arrive on the first’s coattails, and rain on the county from Sunday night to Monday night. Santa Cruz will see up to 3 inches of rain, and up to 8 inches in the mountains.

Areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains are still receiving rain, but the peak of this storm has passed. As expected by Wednesday night, rainfall totals for this storm fell short of the alarming forecasts made earlier in the week. Santa Cruz saw about 1.2 inches of rain, Watsonville 1.02 inches, and the mountains received just shy of 5 inches, Blier said.

The most significant factor of last night’s storm was the wind, which reached up to 55 mph in Ben Lomond and 52 mph near Natural Bridges. Mt. Umunhum, a Santa Cruz Mountains peak just over the Santa Clara County line, saw wind speeds reach 81 mph. Remarkably, the wind in Marin County peaked at 101 mph.

In Watsonville, city spokesperson Michelle Pulido says the city is helping residents in the southeastern part of the city return to their homes as evacuation orders have been lifted. In contrast to the New Year’s Eve storm, Pulido says the area saw no flooding. However, the Pajaro River watershed remains under close watch as the Uvas and Pacheco reservoirs, upstream along the Pajaro River, flooded last night, according to Matthew Machado, the county’s public works director. The peak of the storm’s impact on the South County portion of the Pajaro River isn’t expected to arrive until 9pm Thursday night.

Storm Central keeps you updated as we watch, wait and assess. Check back here as Lookout correspondents reach out across...

As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the county’s public works department had closed 23 county roads as a result of the “bomb cyclone” that rolled through the region on Wednesday into Thursday.

As was the case Wednesday, most of the closures are concentrated within the Santa Cruz Mountains, specifically Bonny Doon, Boulder Creek, Lompico and around Fall Creek State Park. Whereas the road closures up in the mountains resulted from high winds knocking down trees and power poles, East Cliff Drive between Santa Cruz and Capitola was closed due to some flooding and strong coastal storm surges. Similar closures also occurred along West Cliff Drive.

West Beach Road, at the southern tip of the county, was also closed due to flooding near the mouth of Pajaro River. Although much of South County avoided flooding during the Wednesday into Thursday storm, the area will remain under close watch, as the impacts of the storm on the Pajaro River will not be felt until 9pm tonight. Matthew Machado, the county’s public works director, says two reservoirs upstream from the Pajaro River — the Uvas and Pacheco reservoirs — overflowed Wednesday night.

In addition to the 23 county roads shut down by the storm on Wednesday, seven roads throughout the county remained closed due to damage sustained during the New Year’s Eve storm. This includes Hazel Dell Road at the intersection of Green Valley Road, two points on China Grade Road, and Granite Creek Road.

Please continue to send videos, photos and any stories of storm impacts to news@lookourlocal.com

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