A series of atmospheric rivers caused storm damage to infrastructure throughout Santa Cruz County. On Thursday, Capitola’s wharf was broken in half by a powerful storm surge. More than 5,000 people remain without power now, and initial damage estimates from the storm exceed her $20 million. All of this comes as another powerful storm is set to make landfall on Monday.
KQED’s Natalia Navarro spoke with Dave Reed, director of the Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience, about both the county’s efforts to prepare for the next storm and cleanup after the last storm.
This story has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Natalia Navarro: Dave, we hear that the damage in Santa Cruz County is county wide. Can you tell us what kind of damage we are seeing and who it is affecting?
Dave Reed: It has a huge impact on the entire county. In our mountainous region, landslides and slope failures are not only affecting county-maintained road networks, but also damaging homes and other critical infrastructure. Along our rivers, streams and drains, mid- and south-county Soquel businesses and residences have been flooded. And many have witnessed the power and influence of the ocean along our coastlines on social media. So the effects of these storms last week are really far-reaching.
Is the county currently devoting more resources to cleaning up after the last storm or preparing for the next one?
There is a balance there. What we try to do in terms of cleanup and preparation is do our best to ensure that our natural drainage and artificial rainwater systems are clean and ready to face this next storm. You’re trying to remove wood debris that could exacerbate or damage your flooding potential. I’m trying to clean the drainage infrastructure so that the storm drains and culverts are clean. And we’re trying to get out when we can to assess the current damage to community members ahead of this next storm.
One area of concern is the Pajarro River on the Monterey County border. Can you talk about what you will monitor and what actions you will take if the river reaches the flood stage?
Of course we plan to monitor storms in all creeks and streams, but Pajaro and the potential impact there could be very significant. I’m going to watch it work. Thankfully we raised funds for the repair, but it’s still not fixed. So as these water levels rise from Monday evening through early Tuesday morning, we will be watching closely for possible evacuation orders before these concerns arise. is that we monitor weather forecasts and have the best available data to make the most informed decisions to keep our communities safe.
Are there specific areas in the county that are expected to be evacuated in the next few days?
If the weather forecast is correct, most of the lowland drainage canals, including Soquel Creek, Aptos Creek, Salcipedes Corralitos Pajaro River and San Lorenzo River, will be ordered to evacuate. However, this storm could also cause additional damage in mountainous areas through additional landslides and slope failures, as the soil is already saturated.