Up to 70 mph wind, rain expected in biggest storm in years
Photo- V Vaughn Visnius Photography
By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ >> The strongest storm in two years is slated to strike the Bay Area late Wednesday, bringing hurricane force wind gusts and up to 8 inches of rain in parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The rainfall will be comparable to the series of storms that slammed into the coast last week, with the exception that there will be gusts of up to 70 mph in the mountains and 30 to 50 mph along the coast, said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service station in Monterey.
“Overall, it’ll be much more damaging,” said Anderson. “Rainfall will be about the same but, on top of what we’ve already had, we’ll see more flooding and mudslide problems.”
The storm is a cold-front system moving from Alaska across the Pacific Ocean, Anderson said. The brunt of the storm will be Thursday before petering out Friday; sunshine is expected over the weekend.
Meteorologists said Santa Cruz, which has recorded 9 inches of rain since July, and Watsonville, which has marked 6.4 inches, both can expect up to 3 inches of rain.
The Weather Service issued a high wind warning throughout the Bay Area, including San Jose, Southern Salinas Valley, Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County, that begins 10 p.m. Wednesday and extends through 10 p.m. Thursday.
The heavily wooded areas in Northern Santa Cruz County are likely to experience more downed trees and power outages as a result of the storm, Anderson said.
“With the drought, they’re just stressed to the point of almost tipping over by themselves,” he said of the trees. “They don’t really need much to be taken down.”
With big swells expected — as high as 15 to 20 feet — the Coast Guard advised boat owners to secure boats to avoid their vessels breaking free and causing a safety hazard.
“It’s the highest surf we’ve had in a couple of years,” said Anderson, adding that people should stay off the rocks and away from the water.
Capitola’s Public Works Department offered sand, sandbags and shovels to residents in preparation for possible flooding. The supplies can be found in the parking lot behind Capitola City Hall at 420 Capitola Ave., Sgt. Mark Gonzalez said.
“It’s possible it could be flooding so that’s why we’re going to be proactive in monitoring the storm drains and ocean swells, especially during high tide,” Gonzalez said.
Santa Cruz’s fire department will have additional lifeguards on duty and parks and recreation staff members available, said city spokesman Keith Sterling. He advised residents to clear out their storm drains to prevent flooding.
At the county level, officials have been prepping for weeks for winter storms. Extra crews are expected to be on call to deal with road problems and potential flooding, said Melodye Serino, public information officer for the county.
Near the Rio del Mar flats on 26th Street and the Pajaro Dunes area, officials anticipate flooding because of ocean surges, Serino said.
On the other side of the hill at San Jose Mineta International Airport, officials will be monitoring runway conditions and winds, said airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.
“In general airlines need to know what the conditions are on the runway and it’s up to the airline whether that affects a flight,” she said, adding that she has yet to see rain have such an impact at Mineta.
Officials in San Jose, which saw flood problems during and after last week’s storms, met with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and other agencies on Tuesday to collaborate on storm response.
In San Francisco, the Public Works Department has been clearing hundreds of water catch basins, but asked for the public’s help to keep drains clear.
“With strong winds and heavy rain expected, we’re also asking our residents to be extra careful on our streets,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. “Stay indoors whenever possible, take shelter and help reduce street flooding by clearing away leaves and other debris that may clog our storm drains.”
San Jose Mercury News reporter Eric Kurhi contributed to this article.
Today: 10 percent chance of rain after 4 p.m. and increasing to 50 percent after 10 p.m. High 64 degrees, low 55 degrees.
Thursday: Heavy rains forecasted with a possible thunderstorm. High 63, low 49.
Friday: 80 percent chance of showers. High 60, low 43.
Saturday: Mostly sunny. High 61, low 43.
Sunday: Mostly sunny. High 62, low 46.