Storm brings needed rain to parched SLO County, with more to come

The county receives half an inch to 2 inches of rain Friday, with meteorologists predicting a second front to bring additional precipitation today

newsroom@thetribunenews.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Heavy rainfall soaked San Luis Obispo County late Thursday and Friday, but the high winds expected to snap tree branches and down power lines never materialized.

Central Coast residents who braced for traffic accidents, mudslides and flooding, however, aren’t in the clear quite yet as the remainder of the storm blows through today, bringing forecasts of up to an additional 1.5 inches of rain.

PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey said the county did get some much-needed rainfall — anywhere from half an inch to more than 2 inches — and winds reached as high as 49 mph. On the whole, however, the daytime conditions were not extreme.

“The rainfall estimates have been pretty much accurate, but I think the winds haven’t been quite as strong as predicted,” Lindsey said. “Maybe (Friday’s) wind was not quite as strong as we predicted, and I’m sure the rain was not as much as people would like given the drought. But I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.”

A second front that was set to arrive Friday night is expected to bring an additional half an inch to 1.5 inches of rain today before tapering off by the evening. The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flooding advisory because of high surf and gusty winds through this morning. A high surf advisory forecasts waves from the southwest of 15 to 20 feet and occasional sets of up to 25 feet this morning.

On Friday morning, a toppled tree briefly blocked Moonstone Beach Drive, but otherwise Cambria emerged from overnight rain and wind relatively unscathed. None of the three fallen trees reported to the Cambria Fire Department struck houses.

Rain began falling in Cambria about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, totaling from 0.73 to 0.9 of an inch before tapering off Friday morning.

The heaviest rain and highest wind gust, about 25 mph, happened between 2 and 3 a.m. Friday, according to a weather station at Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast in Cambria.
Elsewhere along the North Coast, the peak wind gust at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon was 41 mph about 3:30 a.m.

At Michele Oksen’s residence near 3,400-foot Rocky Butte, about 6 miles north of Cambria along the ridge of the Santa Lucia Range, the overnight total was 1.5 inches, she said. Winds were high enough so “my solar panels went flying,” Oksen tweeted.

No damage was reported at Hearst Castle, said Nick Franco, State Parks district superintendent.

Eleven customers on San Simeon Creek lost service about 5 a.m. Friday, PG&E said. Power was back on later in the morning.

“It has been very windy with strong gusts shaking the house,” said Susan McDonald, one of those who lost power. “The creek has come up just from a trickle to a nice rush past our house.”

While rainfall amounts in Cambria did not reach the higher amounts forecast, enough fell to go a long way toward filling a large storage system under playing fields at Cambria Grammar School, said Lee Wight, head of maintenance for the school district. The 1.7 million-gallon-capacity underground water storage now has 700,000 gallons in it, he said Friday.

In Morro Bay, U.S. Coast Guard and harbor officials also said the day was rather uneventful, though they were preparing for an evening of strong winds and heavy swells.

According to the Coast Guard, State Parks officials were likely to close off the area on the south side of Morro Rock, a common precautionary measure for public safety.

Farther south, Port San Luis Harbor District employees had been preparing for a storm all week by cleaning drains and culverts, checking mooring attachments on boats, and moving equipment, harbor manager Steve McGrath said in an email.

“When storms and swells come from the south and west, as this one is doing, there is a much greater impact on the harbor,” he wrote.

The Avila Beach Pier was closed for a few hours Friday morning because of the high tides and was going to be closed again at dusk. The pier will remain closed at least until midmorning today, perhaps later.

“We close if there’s a big swell because the swell will break under the pier and come through the decking,” McGrath elaborated in a phone interview.

The Harford Pier at Port San Luis remains open.

In the South County, the Five Cities Fire Authority reported Friday afternoon that there hadn’t been any reported incidents of flooding, vehicle accidents or downed power lines in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Halcyon or Oceano.

“As of 2:15 this afternoon, I’ve driven around the area and haven’t seen much, if any, standing water,” Peter Klein, media coordinator for the fire department, wrote in an email.

Elsewhere in the county, a bit less than an inch of rain fell at the Paso Robles Airport, while 1.5 to 2 inches were recorded in Atascadero.

At Cal Poly, 1.27 inches of rain fell.

For the most part, drivers seemed to take extra care on the wet roads Friday. A single-vehicle rollover crash on Highway 1 was reported near Camp San Luis Obispo at 5:35 p.m., according to the CHP.

While rain will likely continue through much of today, only a heavy drizzle bringing an additional quarter of an inch at most, is expected Sunday morning.

The next rainfall is expected to bring about a quarter inch of precipitation Thursday, Lindsey said.

Rainfall totals

Here's how much rain fell during the 24-hour period that ended 6 p.m. Friday:

Arroyo Grande 0.95"
Atascadero 1.58"
Baywood Park 1.16"
Cal Poly 1.27"
Cambria 0.63"
Cayucos 0.80"
Creston 1.45"
Diablo Canyon 1.07"
Los Osos 1.77"
Morro Bay 1.02"
Nipomo 0.98"
Oceano 0.75"
Paso Robles 0.92"
Pismo Beach 1.00"
Rocky Butte 1.56"
Santa Margarita 2.55"
San Luis Obispo 1.74"
San Simeon 0.79"
Shandon 0.98"
Shell Beach 1.05"
Templeton Gap 3.00"
Tassajara Peak 2.60"

Reported by Matt Fountain (Twitter handle @MattFountain1), Cynthia Lambert (@SouthCountyBeat), Bert Etling (@TheCambrian) and Kathe Tanner (@CambriaReporter).

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