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Storms damage homes, close roads

Modified: Wednesday, Feb 8th, 2017

A tree tore down a utility pole, power and communication lines on San Andreas Road at Mar Monte Tuesday morning during one of several winter storms. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — As a chain of winter storms continue to pummel the Central Coast this week, emergency workers, Pacific Gas and Electric and road crews have been scrambling to keep up with the trail of destruction.

Toppled trees crushed into homes, over cars and onto roadways around the county including on the 100 block of Alta Drive in La Selva Beach. Around 7:30 a.m. a massive stand of cypress trees sagged over the Alta Drive home and virtually smothered the entire front of the home. Another large tree caved in on top of power and communication lines on San Andreas Road at Mar Monte and shattered a utility pole, forcing the California Highway Patrol to shut San Andreas Road altogether in the area. San Andreas Road remained closed through Wednesday morning.

“We have several rivers at or approaching flood stage (San Lorenzo, Soquel and Corralitos), with rain expected to continue this afternoon,” said Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin.

In the San Lorenzo Valley a swift water rescue team joined Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters after reports of people trapped in their homes surrounded by rising water. Numerous people had to be evacuated with the use of small plastic boats.

“We are currently conducting evacuations in the Felton Grove area due to flooding along the San Lorenzo River," Hoppin said Tuesday. “Emergency personnel are also monitoring Paradise Park. We are activating the Emergency Operations Center.”

By noon Tuesday the San Lorenzo River started flooding an area between Felton and Santa Cruz.

CHP Sgt. Grant Boles said a massive mudslide crashed over Highway 17 around 10 a.m. Tuesday in Scotts Valley near Vine Hill Road, flipping one SUV over onto its roof.

“The male driver miraculously walked away from the crash uninjured,” Boles said. “All traffic is being diverted at Granite Creek Road in the northbound direction and southbound Highway 17 traffic is being directed onto Summit Road.”

By Wednesday morning workers managed to shove enough of the slide off the pavement on Highway 17, allowing room for traffic to resume in one lane in each direction.

Boles pointed out that Highway 152 north of Watsonville is also completely shut down due to a mudslide at the summit area. Old San Jose Road out of Soquel is shut down as is Highway 9 in the San Lorenzo Valley. Bear Creek Road, which can be used as an alternate route from Highway 17 to Highway 9 and ultimately into Santa Cruz, is also closed.

“The only way to get over the hill right now is to use San Juan Road out of Pajaro to Highway 101,” said CHP officer Trista Drake.

The City of Watsonville issued a flood advisory Tuesday, saying that the city's levee and creek levels are stable and no evacuations are in order.

The National Weather Service has posted a flash flood watch through tonight.

Anna Schneider, meteorologist at the National Weather Service of Monterey, said there will be rain today, heavy at times, most likely starting up in the early afternoon in the Monterey Bay. At least two inches of rain is expected. Temperatures will drop somewhat in that the weather system is drifting south from the Gulf of Alaska.

Schneider said a “flood watch” means weather conditions may lead to flash flooding and that the community should pay extra attention to possible alerts from emergency officials. She added that clear sky is right around the corner.

By Friday evening the rain will clear out, opening the doors for a sunny weekend.

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