Strong winds cause power outages, downed trees and power lines across Santa Cruz County

Caltrans workers remove a fallen tree at the Mar Monte Avenue offramp near Highway 1 in La Selva Beach
Crews work to clear fallen trees from Highway 1 near Mar Monte Avenue in La Selva Beach.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Gusts reached up to 76 mph in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Tuesday, leading to downed trees and wires across the county. National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Canepa said the brunt of the system would pass through by Tuesday afternoon.

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A storm swept through Santa Cruz County on Tuesday, bringing wind gusts of nearly 80 mph to the Santa Cruz Mountains that caused downed trees, power lines and road closures. The worst of it was expected to pass by Tuesday evening.

Although the Santa Cruz Mountains saw only modest rainfall, totaling no more than 1.5 inches over the previous 12 hours by 3 p.m., wind was a different story. National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Canepa told Lookout that the Santa Cruz Mountains saw gusts reaching 76 mph, resulting in fallen trees and downed power lines around the county.

Canepa said the storm is a byproduct of the atmospheric river hitting Southern California. The northernmost part of the system broke off from the larger storm and turned into its own weather system overnight.

Canepa said the peak of the storm likely happened in the early afternoon, and that conditions would calm down throughout the evening, “but it’ll still be breezy to gusty into the night with some additional showers.”

Several major transportation arteries were shut down due to weather impacts. Highway 9 near Bear Creek Road was closed because of a fallen tree and power lines sprawling across all lanes. Highway 236 near Acorn Drive North was closed because of a fallen tree obstructing all lanes. There was no estimated time of reopening as of 3 p.m.

Highway 17 was closed in both directions at El Rancho Drive just south of Mount Hermon Road because of another fallen tree and more downed power lines, reopening around 2:30 p.m. Southbound Highway 1 was closed at Mar Monte Avenue in La Selva Beach for the same reasons, with no estimated reopening time as of 3 p.m.

Find information on county road conditions here and on state-maintained highways here.

At 2 p.m., the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation warning for the areas in Boulder Creek surrounding Foreman Creek. A blockage in the waterway was causing the water level to rise, which officials warned lead to flooding in the area.No other areas in the county were under an evacuation warning or order as of 3 p.m.; find your zone and check its status here.

Caltrans workers trim tree branches near a power line on Mar Monte Avenue near Highway 1 in La Selva Beach.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Sheriff’s spokesperson Ashley Keehn said fire departments in the San Lorenzo Valley had responded to the majority of 911 calls from this storm. She said the calls started to come in around 12:45 p.m. and were consistently still coming in through just after 1:30 p.m.

“We’re seeing a lot of trees down, power lines down, trees into power lines and several trees into houses as well,” she said, adding that she wasn’t aware of any injuries yet.

Keehn said it appeared the majority of the calls were related to the wind.

“This is an incredibly strong wind event,” she said. “If you do have to be out on the roadways, please be careful. If you don’t have to drive, don’t. The roads are incredibly messy right now.”

Pacific Gas & Electric had not yet responded to questions about how many customers were out of power Tuesday, but the company’s outage map showed widespread outages across the county. As of mid-afternoon on Tuesday, outages affected Santa Cruz, La Selva Beach, Corralitos, Watsonville, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and other mountain communities. The website estimated the total at more than 24,000 homes and businesses as of 3:15 p.m.

Though some rain is forecast to continue Wednesday, Canepa said the region will enter a bit of a dry stretch, albeit a cold one. However, he said another storm system will be coming to the area late Monday or early next Tuesday that could bring more rain to the greater Bay Area. The intensity of the storm will be determined as its landfall draws closer.

Hillary Ojeda contributed to this report.


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