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March 1, 2021

Central Coast soaked by recent rains

CENTRAL COAST—Recent heavy rains, ushered into the Central Coast from the Gulf of Alaska, have helped alleviate low water levels in an otherwise dry winter.

Ryan Walbrun, meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Monterey, said that since October Watsonville has taken in 9.7 inches of rain, which amounts to 87% of the city’s normal rainfall, 11.12 inches. Monterey now stands at 67% of normal at 5.6 inches, while it normally reaches 8.9 inches. Salinas also leveled off at 67% of its normal rainfall so far this year.

“Of course, these numbers will change as the current rain is tallied,” Walbrun said.

The recent storms also significantly boosted the snowpack in the Sierra. In the northern Trinity region, the snowpack rose to 64% of normal while the central Sierra topped out on Jan. 29 at 71% of normal, the National Weather Service said.

In the past, February and March have typically delivered drenching rains, which could help edge rainfall numbers closer to the norm, Walburn said, if that happens.

In a three-day block last week the San Francisco Bay Area took in between 2 and 3 inches of rain while the Santa Cruz Mountains harvested a whopping 6 to 9 inches. Topping all of those numbers was Big Sur, which saw a stunning 16 inches of rain. That soaking, among other things, led to a devastating landslide that tore out about 150 feet of Highway 1 and the surrounding hillside. The slide forced a hard closure of both north and southbound lanes indefinitely.

Locally, a Pacific, Gas and Electric Company worker suffered minor injuries when the service truck he was driving was grabbed by a mudslide on Valencia School Road in Aptos just past midnight on Jan. 28. The truck and wall of mud cascaded down a 150-foot path in the rugged terrain. The portion of the road is now taped off and impassable to motor traffic.

Jackie McCloud, environmental sustainability manager with Watsonville’s Public Works and Utilities department, said, “We are very excited about the rain right now.”

She said her routine includes working with various agencies to “make sure our creeks and rivers flow properly. Our groundwater supply is in good shape right now. We are prepared to comply with conservation measures if needed; we are not at a critical level if we look at all water resources from every angle.”

McCloud said that there has been no reports of flooding in the Pajaro River.

“Repairs from 2017 seem to be holding well,” McCloud said. “All our drinking wells and storm pump systems are healthy.”

Walburn said mostly sunny skies will take us through the weekend and into next week.

“It’s going to be really nice weather,” he said. “We might even reach into the 70s at the start of next week.”

The next chance of rain could come next week as “a hint of another wet system” appears to be wandering in our direction, Walburn said.

“There are more storms that could reach the Monterey Bay in the distant forecast,” he said,” but we don’t expect any real strong wet systems like we saw a week ago.”


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