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Round 2 of storms for San Luis Obispo County

Tribune photo by Jayson Mellom

San Luis Obispo County escaped major problems as the second in a series of storms moved through the area Tuesday, but a third, more powerful storm is on the way today.

A cold front passed over the area Tuesday morning, bringing with it thunderstorms, downpours, gusting winds and heavy surf. Many weather stations recorded an inch or more of rain from the storm.

The third, wetter storm is forecast to move through the county today. It could bring an additional 2 to 3 inches of rain in the lower elevations and double that at higher elevations, said John Lindsey, a communications specialist and forecaster with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

“There will be a good chance for thunderstorms along the frontal boundary,” he said in his daily weather report. “With the ground becoming saturated, localized flooding may develop.”

Particularly heavy surf is expected this morning, making coastal conditions hazardous. Swell sets as high as 24 feet are expected, Lindsey said.

On Tuesday afternoon, operators at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant began reducing the output of its two reactors to 25 percent power, said Emily Archer, plant spokeswoman. Dislodged kelp and storm debris can clog the plant’s cooling water intake and large waves can damage screens covering the intake.

A fourth storm is expected to pass over the area Thursday with southerly winds and more periods of heavy rain. Yet more showers are forecast for Friday before a break in the string of storms is expected this weekend, but another storm is expected Monday.

The storms have brought with them a number of power outages, caused mostly by soggy trees and branches blown down by heavy winds. On Monday, as many as 35,000 customers were without power in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

That number dropped to 600 on Tuesday, mostly in the Santa Maria area, said Kory Raftery, a PG&E spokesman. Crews Tuesday were trying to get as many customers back on line before today’s powerful storm causes another round of outages.

Tours at Hearst Castle remained canceled for the second day Tuesday and may continue into a third as stormy weather continues today.

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Park was also closed Tuesday because of the high surf, said Ranger Robert Tolin. The crashing waves would have made driving on the beach too dangerous, and Tolin said no one was camping at the park, anyway. He expected the park would remain shut down until the weekend, at the earliest.

A handful of traffic problems were reported from Tuesday’s storm. Highway 1 from Oso Flaco Lake Road to Division Street was closed because of flooding.

Highway 1 through Oceano has a history of flooding and Tuesday was no exception, said Bill Bookout, owner of the Oceano Nursery. The road had plenty of standing water but was not closed.

Work done last summer by Caltrans to enlarge a drainage inlet and remove two eucalyptus trees eased the flooding problems, Bookout said.

Caltrans officials reported no other problems Tuesday. Even mudslide-prone Highway 1 through Big Sur remained open.

The CHP reported that one northbound lane of Highway 101 south of Atascadero was closed Tuesday morning after a vehicle carrying jet fuel crashed and spilled 200 gallons.

The Coast Guard station at Morro Bay reported no rescues or other unusual activity as a result of the storm. Commercial fishermen and other mariners stay in port during stormy weather.

Most of the public piers in the county, including Harford and Pismo Beach piers, stayed open, however the Avila Beach pier was closed. Piers are popular spots to watch heavy surf and stormy weather.

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