Quick Take:

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

By National Weather Service Meteorologist Warren Blier’s estimation, what the Bay Area experienced this week was a “once-in-five-years” atmospheric river — one that emerged from a strong storm system, was generously fed by moisture from subtropic waters, and moved back and forth, spending more time on the Santa Cruz County area than a typical atmospheric river would.

“Usually these things just move through,” Blier said.

Originally, between eight to 12 inches of rain were forecast between Tuesday and Thursday. That was revised downward slightly on Tuesday morning, though rain totals exceeded 11 inches in the highest parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains as of 9 a.m. Friday, according to this National Weather Service map. Areas in red typically exceeded 8.5 inches of rain, while areas in orange exceeded 7 inches.

Various rain totals over the previous 72 hours in Santa Cruz County as of 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29.
Various rain totals over the previous 72 hours in Santa Cruz County as of 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service

Here were the high-water marks recorded in various Santa Cruz area communities as of late Thursday afternoon, before additional rain fell overnight.

Santa Cruz, 8.22 inches
Felton, 8.05 inches
Corralitos, 7.52 inches
Boulder Creek, 7.28 inches
Soquel, 6.85 inches
Scotts Valley, 6.83 inches
Ben Lomond Mountain, 6.57 inches
Watsonville, 5.80 inches
Capitola, 4.75 inches
Aptos Hills-Larkin, 4.73 inches
Rio del Mar, 4.72 inches

The forecast for Friday calls for showers to continue, though nothing like the rains the area experienced earlier in the week. The sun will eventually peek out, with a high of 53.

Here’s the early NWS forecast for the weekend and into next week:

Rain showers this morning will gradually decrease through midday with a drying trend this afternoon. Brief high pressure builds overnight with valley fog formation likely. . . . Mostly cloudy and cool on Saturday with light rain chances for the far North Bay. That boundary will stall to our north into Sunday before rain chances slide southward Monday through Tuesday. High pressure builds by Wednesday with a drying trend.

Santa Cruz area residents captured how intense the storm was through a variety of social media posts. Among them:

While mudslides and debris flows weren’t seen here, they did happen further south in Monterey County.

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