Where we stand on Wednesday night: After brief dry spell, more storms headed to Santa Cruz County

The San Lorenzo River along Highway 9 on Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

After what is expected to be a brief reprieve from the rain for much of Thursday, another atmospheric river is set to hit the Central Coast on Thursday night and into the weekend, bringing with it the potential for thunderstorms, hail, gusty winds and more high surf. In Watsonville, workers rushed to repair the Pajaro River levee. The community of Pajaro was put under an evacuation order, though local officials said the river did not flood.

Rain will continue pummeling Santa Cruz county this week, raising new risks of flooding, downed trees and landslides even as residents continue cleaning up from an endless parade of storms that have hit the region since New Year’s Eve.

After what is expected to be a brief dry spell for much of Thursday, another atmospheric river is set to hit the Central Coast on Thursday night and into the weekend, bringing with it the potential for thunderstorms, hail, gusty winds and more high surf.

This next storm is expected to drop less rain than the region has seen in recent weeks, with a total of 2-3 inches set to fall in low-lying areas of the county between Thursday and Sunday, along with 4-5 inches in the mountains, said National Weather Service meteorologist Valerie Thaler.

The wet weather is forecast to continue into next week, though those showers should drop a lighter total of 1-2 inches of rain between Monday and Wednesday, before finally tapering off.

The iconic WWI "Cement Ship" off the Aptos coast.
The combination of high tides and huge swells did extensive damage to the Seacliff Pier at Seacliff State Beach and the iconic cement ship that lies off the Aptos coast.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The NWS issued a high surf advisory for the Santa Cruz Coast between 1 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Saturday, bringing large breaking waves as high as 25 feet.

However, Thaler said the high surf isn’t expected to cause the same dangerous ocean swells that devastated coastal communities like Capitola Village, Rio Del Mar in Aptos and West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz last week.

“This front we are going to see Thursday to Saturday is not going to be comparable to the damage that was experienced with the previous system,” she said.

Evacuations and flooding

Flooded fields that run along East Lake Avenue in Watsonville on Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office had lifted almost every evacuation order for the area as of Wednesday, though evacuation warnings remained in place for parts of Watsonville, Rio Del Mar, Soquel, Capitola, Paradise Park, Felton and Boulder Creek.

Santa Cruz County said it closed the Buena Vista landfill because of “severe flooding” along the entrance road to the area.

The community of Pajaro, on the Monterey County side of the Pajaro River, was under an evacuation order Wednesday as workers rushed to make emergency repairs to the river levee.

Law enforcement officials closed the road heading southbound across the Pajaro Bridge on Wednesday afternoon. City of Watsonville officials said there was no immediate risk to Watsonville residents.

“We had some close calls on both sides of the Pajaro River throughout the night,” Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

County officials on both sides of the Pajaro River stressed that the waterway did not flood overnight Tuesday or Wednesday and that any standing water in the area was the result of localized flooding.

The NWS’ Thaler said the Pajaro River was forecast to continue dropping Wednesday and Thursday, before rising again into Saturday. However, she said the river was expected to stop short of reaching flood stage, though it would likely reach “action” stage, a level at which the NWS says local authorities need to be prepared to act to prevent a possible future flood.

The San Lorenzo River will reach a similar stage, she said, but did not appear to be at risk of flooding.

School closures


Pajaro Valley Unified School District said Wednesday that it would keep some schools closed again on Thursday because of local road closures and the evacuation order affecting the Monterey County side of the Pajaro River.

Those schools are:

  • Elementary schools: Ann Soldo, Calabasas, Hall District, Ohlone and Radcliff
  • Middle schools: Lakeview, Pajaro Middle
  • High schools: Watsonville, Renaissance High

All other district schools are set to open Thursday and the district was planning to provide transportation for students.

Costs for unincorporated areas are so far estimated to be more than $21 million in road damages and more than $6.8...

After closing Tuesday and Wednesday because of the storms, the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District will open Thursday.

However, district officials asked guardians to be cautious while driving to school because of crews working to clear roads.

“For this reason we ask everyone to take their time in getting to school and for your patience and understanding in regards to traffic,” they wrote in a letter to families. “School sites will be accommodating for students arriving late these next two days of school.”

Most other county school districts had reopened schools by Wednesday.

Road closures

Crews face a landslide in the Santa Cruz Mountains
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Across the county, road workers were still cleaning up from earlier storms that toppled trees, flooded streets and ripped down power lines.

There were 64 emergency closures along roads in the county Wednesday.

In Santa Cruz, East Cliff Drive was closed between 30th and 32nd avenues because of power lines on the road.

In La Selva Beach, San Andreas Road was closed at Marea Avenue because of a slide.

Highway 9 reopened at Bear Creek Road, but remained closed between Glen Arbor Road and Holiday Lane because of a large landslide. Highway 236 also remained closed Wednesday at Little Basin Road.

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