Central Coast struggles with unusual heavy rain

Jessica Espinosa, left, and her friend, Brittany Gibbins, stand on the edge of a washed out section
of Halcon Road in Atascadero.
Jessica Espinosa, left, and her friend, Brittany Gibbins, stand on the edge of a washed out section of Halcon Road in Atascadero. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Eleven-year-old Cassie Myers arched her head up at a grove of eucalyptus trees in Pismo Beach on Monday, hoping to spot the orange-and-black wings of monarch butterflies among the branches.

But several days of nearly nonstop rain meant that Myers, visiting for the weekend from Running Springs, 18 miles west of Big Bear, would have to come back to San Luis Obispo County some other day.

“There was never a break,” Cassie’s mother, Colleen Myers, said Monday morning while standing in the middle of the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove along Highway 1.

Nearby, most of Pismo State Beach’s North Beach Campground was underwater.

“It seems more like a lake,” Colleen Myers said.

The Myerses were not the only people in the county whose weekend plans were changed as a steady rain continued to fall Monday, turning golf courses into small lakes and swelling local creeks.

Countywide, yellow “flooded” signs dotted roads and highways and several spots were closed to through traffic. One road near Atascadero washed out under the force of a rushing Salinas River. Several sewage systems, overwhelmed by storm runoff, failed Sunday, releasing more than 20,000 gallons of raw sewage to storm drains and creeks.

The storm also displaced at least two dozen South County residents, several of whom spent the night at a shelter at Arroyo Grande High School.

About 3:30 a.m. Monday, the CHP issued an update on area road conditions that included nearly three dozen closures and flooded areas across the county.

Avila Beach Drive between Ontario Road and San Luis Bay Drive remained closed to through traffic Monday morning, and an employee at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort said some reservations were canceled Sunday night because of the storm.

“I was supposed to work, and I couldn’t unless I had a canoe,” said bartender Courtney Lara, who lives in San Luis Obispo.

The resort was open Monday.

Down the road, near Avila Beach, the Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail was roped off “due to storm,” according to a small sign.

Part of the 18-hole course at the Avila Beach Golf Resort was underwater, as was a smaller, nine-hole course at Highway 1 and Grand Avenue.

“The No. 2 is underwater, No. 4 is underwater,” said Al Carlin, an employee at the Pismo State Beach Golf Course. “No. 8 is surrounded by water. We’re having a regatta here.”

Five people spent the day in Arroyo Grande High’s multipurpose room, which had been set up by American Red Cross volunteers as a shelter for anyone displaced by the storm.

Red Cross spokeswoman Carolyn Jo said all lived in Oceano. They declined to be interviewed.

Jo said eight people stayed at the shelter Sunday night. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, 29 people had registered with the Red Cross and 11 people were sheltered for the night. The shelter will remain open at least through tonight, Jo said.

The Red Cross has also opened a shelter at Guadalupe’s City Hall, at which 21 people are sheltered, Jo said. Some residents there left their homes after the Santa Maria River briefly overran its banks Sunday and caused flooding in that city, the Associated Press reported.

North County

Rains were heavier along the coast than over Cuesta Grade, and authorities in the North County said Monday was largely uneventful, noting only a few routine calls.

Highway 41 reopened between Highways 46 and 33 after a weekend mudslide.

The chilly, wet day didn’t keep shoppers from mailing last-minute packages. On Sixth Street, the Paso Robles Post Office saw long lines, a bustling parking lot and patrons wearing jackets and using umbrellas to shield packages from raindrops.

Sharon Ross of the Paso Robles Rotary Club was thankful she remembered her scarf, furry boots and gloves for a two-hour shift as a Salvation Army bell ringer outside the entrance.

The busy scene was good for donations, she said, although she wasn’t certain how much she collected.

“Even in the rain, everyone is friendly,” she said.

To the east, a pedestrian in Paso Robles stopped to peer over the 13th Street Bridge to watch water flow down the Salinas River, dry roughly nine months out of the year.

On the southeast side of Atascadero, the Salinas River crossing at Halcon Road washed out, as it usually does each year. Atascadero’s Public Works Department closed the unpaved riverbed crossing as water poured through Sunday. It’s closed until further notice.

Trucks with the CalPortland Rocky Canyon Quarry often use the route. They take an alternate route during wet weather.

Sewage spills

The county health agency released a warning Monday after more than 5,000 gallons of raw sewage were released from overwhelmed sewage systems in Avila Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.

In San Luis Obispo, 1,000 gallons spilled into San Luis Creek at the intersection of Pismo and Toro streets, prompting health officials to warn people to avoid swimming in or drinking water from the creek downriver of the release and at the ocean.

In Morro Bay, 515 gallons were released into a storm drain at Main and Nassau streets, and in Pismo Beach, 750 gallons spilled into a storm drain at Morro and Ocean streets.

In Avila Beach, 2,500 gallons spilled from a lift station at First Street and San Miguel Avenue.Additional releases were reported Sunday, including 15,000 gallons into San Luis Obispo Creek.There were also spills into Arroyo Grande Creek, Meadow Creek and Oceano Lagoon.

The Cuesta College campus was closed Monday after a tree on adjacent Camp San Luis Obispo property toppled Sunday, damaged a bridge over Chorro Creek and severed the college’s sewer line. The severed line was tapped and turned off, college officials said.

The college maintenance and operations department is working with Camp San Luis Obispo personnel to repair the line, officials said. No students are on campus this week, and a reduced number of staff is working.

Tribune staff writers David Sneed and Tonya Strickland contributed to this report. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stayupdated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.