High winds, rain expected as latest storm system moves into Santa Cruz County

A swollen Aptos Creek emptied into the bay Monday afternoon at Rio Del Mar.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A rapidly changing weather system forced forecasters to update their predictions for the latest atmospheric river, with the Santa Cruz Mountains and coastline under a high wind warning that could see gusts of up to 75 mph and rain totals of 4-5 inches in some spots. Rain is expected to continue through Wednesday morning.

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Another atmospheric river is taking aim at California, with much of Santa Cruz County under a high wind warning as of Tuesday morning and rain expected to be heavy at times.

As of 3 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service said the latest storm from would make landfall around Pigeon Point, in San Mateo County, and bring “two bands of especially strong winds, extending out like the arms of a pinwheel.” The first was forecast to arrive Tuesday morning, with another following in the afternoon.

The windiest areas could see gusts in the 65-75 mph range, and the already soaked Santa Cruz Mountains could see as much as 5 inches of rain, per a NWS forecast. Rain was expected to continue into Wednesday morning.

Strong winds could cause issues in the saturated mountain regions, where residents should prepare for downed trees and power lines.

The outlook for local streams and rivers appears to be better than with previous storms. National Weather Service meteorologist Miles Bliss told Lookout on Monday afternoon that aside from the Salinas River, none of the region’s other waterways are expected to reach flood stage, a prediction repeated in NWS’ 3 a.m. weather discussion. That included the Pajaro River, which suffered a breach of its levee March 11. However, Bliss added that due to soil saturation, pooling water could return.

“With saturated soils, [water] doesn’t have anywhere else to go except for just standing at the surface,” he said. “But if you were prepared for the flooding that has recently occurred, you’ll be prepared for this.”

Monday marked the official first day of spring, which means the rainy season should be on its way to becoming a thing of the past, at least for this year. Bliss said NWS’ Climate Prediction Center currently shows low chances for precipitation above normal levels over the next eight to 14 days. That continues into the long-term forecasts, which show high likelihood of normal precipitation — which is not much.

“The first day of spring is a generally good marker of exiting the wet season,” said Bliss. “We’re expecting to move into the less active time of year as far as big winter storms go.”


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