The latest round of storms to hit South Valley has brought a seemingly endless onslaught of downed trees, mudslides, power outages, local flooding and road closures that left many residents and commuters stranded.
In San Benito County, authorities rescued at least 14 people on March 10 from properties on Churchill Road, Lovers Lane and Mission Farm RV Park. The residents were rescued due to rising floodwaters that were preceded by numerous warnings from public safety authorities—culminating in evacuation orders in the affected areas, according to the sheriff’s office.
“To our beloved community… Please heed the warnings and take necessary precautions,” reads a March 13 post on the San Benito County Sheriff’s Facebook page. “It is hard to keep sounding the alarms, then dropping them, then sounding them again. We understand the frustration and how much it has worn you all down. But we must look out for you.”
The county has established a storm evacuation center at the Hollister Migrant Center on Southside Road.
The latest series of storms that hit the Bay Area and Central Coast March 9-10, and again on March 13-14, has dumped several more inches of rain on the saturated region and brought wind gusts of 50 mph and higher into the hillsides. Winds of 74 mph were clocked at San Francisco International Airport; 97 mph at Mount Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains; 93 mph along Mines Road in the East Bay; and 71 mph in the Las Trampas and Oakland hills, according to PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland.
County officials have been sending out wind and flooding alerts since the recent storms started March 9.
The rescue efforts last week occurred in the same area where the sheriff’s office, CalFire, Hollister Police and other public safety agencies rescued 23 people and 16 pets Jan. 9 from the rising waters along Pacheco Creek.
In preparation for the March 13-14 atmospheric river storm, county officials raced against the forecast to stock up sandbag stations in Hollister, San Juan Bautista and other public locations. At the Hollister Airport sandbag station March 13, Allan and Ann Griffin were filling their pickup truck with sandbags in preparation for the downpour that was forecast for that evening. Allen Griffin said the family’s home on Lake Road, as well as some rental properties they own elsewhere in the county had experienced flooding during previous storms this year.
Almost all major highway routes in and out of South County have been closed at various times—and at some moments all at the same time—since March 9. Both eastbound and westbound lanes of Highway 152 between Pole Line Road in Gilroy and Casserly Road in Santa Cruz County closed on March 9, and were still closed the afternoon of March 14, according to Caltrans. The closure is caused by downed trees and mudslides on the route.
Southbound Highway 101 south of Gilroy, as well as sections of Highway 25 and Highway 129 have also been closed for stretches since March 9.
The National Weather Service cautioned that “flooding concerns linger” through Tuesday night into the coming days, even as precipitation levels drop.
“The next two to three days will bring fair weather, with some weak systems passing through the area this weekend,” says the NWS forecast. “Next chances for substantial rainfall are the early to middle part of next week.”