Latest Storm Brings Slides, More Flood Warnings

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The latest round of wet weather slammed into the Bay Area Monday, forcing the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning in anticipation of the stormy onslaught.

The warning went into effect early Monday evening and is set to stay in place until Tuesday afternoon and covers Point Reyes, much of the North Bay, the San Francisco Peninsula Coast, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest.

While Monday began with light showers and drizzle over most of the Bay Area, the rain picked up its intensity in the evening when the latest atmospheric river parks itself over Northern California.

As much as 2 1/2 inches of rain could fall over the North Bay with 3-6 inches possible in the already saturated coastal mountains.

While public works crews in Marin were cleaning up after Sunday night’s storm, residents and business owners on Monday scrambled to prepare for four more days of rain.

Water-logged Marin County is dealing with saturated soil from the most storms communities in the North Bay have seen in decades.

Caitlin Kinsel and her sister just opened their store on San Anselmo Avenue in August.

“We purchased the business recently and now we’re having all of these floods happen,” said Kinsel. “So hopefully we’ll get past it.”

They have been forced to close three separate times during the past two months due to flooding, so the latest flash flood watch and weekly forecast were making her anxious.

“I’ve been checking my app and seeing 100 percent chance of rain, so I think we’ll be doing more prep this week,” said Kinsel.

The entire town is surrounded by sandbags. During heavy rainfall, the San Anselmo Creek regularly jumps its banks and floods the downtown area. Long-time residents are fed up.

“I feel like I live in Seattle, I’m glad we got rain for the drought, but it’s been a little much,” said local resident Laura Briggs.

The National Weather Service said the deluge would cause ponding on local roadways making it a hazardous Tuesday morning commute. Forecasters also predicted that streams and creeks could rapidly rise and some rivers would likely go over their banks.

A flood warning had been issued by the weather service for the Cosumnes River. Forecasters also warned of slides in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The wet weather was already causing some major problems around the Bay Area.

Highway 152 is closed over Hecker Pass due to a rock slide. The closure starts just after the Gilroy Gardens theme park and extends to Pole Line Road.

A chunk of earth four feet deep, 150 feet wide, and 300 feet long came loose from the hillside over the weekend and slid onto the highway halfway in between Watsonville and Gilroy.

Caltrans is in full triage mode. This latest traffic headache is a slow-motion disaster in progress.

“It’s still moving,” said Caltrans Geologist Ron Karpowicz. “It is still active and it is retrograding up-slope as we speak.”

The concrete barrier that was once at the edge of the highway used to run in a straight line, but it was no match for 50,000 tons of mud, rock and debris.

“We did see some tension cracks behind these large redwood trees. I anticipate five to 10 more redwoods will be coming down as part of this slide,” said Karpowicz.

Further down the hill toward Watsonville, storm runoff has eaten away at the ground underneath the roadway. Crews have shut down one lane of Highway 152 to stop the road from crumbling, while they brainstorm a permanent fix.

Officials were saying the highway may not reopen until Thursday morning.

There was also the threat of flooding in western Santa Clara County. The Los Gatos Creek Trail is one of the valley’s most popular natural attractions, but on Monday, sections of it were a fast-moving stream.

Mary Chapin of Santa Cruz came over to walk her dog but went back home after seeing large sections of the trail washed out.

“We come down here and walk sometimes, but it looks like today we’d have to swim,” said Chapin. “I’ve never seen so much water here. Never. I would never imagine that it could be this high.”

The reason for the flooding was obvious. For the first time since anyone can remember, the floodgates at the Vasona Reservoir are open, sending a cascade of white water down Los Gatos Creek.

“I’ve lived in this valley for 53 years, and I’ve never seen water rush out of this like right here like this ever,” said area resident Donna Sanchez.

Vasona is one of the smallest reservoirs in the valley and it’s usually quiet and peaceful. But the non-stop rainstorms transformed the floodgates and the creek into a loud attention-getter.

The roar of the waterfalls can be heard for blocks.

“Usually this is a nice little tricking pond with some ducks swimming around. Now, you can’t even get down there and the ducks can’t swim upstream, they can’t get anywhere,” said Sanchez. “It’s just crazy for us in the valley.”

The Sierra is also about to get hit hard.

An avalanche warning was already posted in certain areas, with some resorts seeing as much as seven inches of fresh powder in the last 24 hours.

The Sierra Avalanche Center reported more heavy, wet snow is expected to fall Monday night.

That, paired with hurricane-force winds and white-out conditions, are forcing the closure of several ski areas at Squaw Valley. More closures are expected Tuesday.

Along with the rain, southerly winds will also increase through the day on Monday as the front approaches.

Wind speeds will continue to increase overnight to levels that could topple trees and power lines especially because of the saturated soils. Local gusts will exceed 35 mph in lower elevation spots while higher elevation spots could see gusts over 50 mph.

The third and final system for the week will bring one more round of rainfall into our region beginning Thursday morning and continuing through Friday.

Forecasters predicted dry weather should return in time for Saturday night’s Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco.

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