Update, 1:51 p.m. March 21
County workers have cleared a rockslide that blocked Santa Rosa Creek Road about four miles east of Coast Union High School.
San Luis Obispo County Public Works posted online that the slide had been cleared as of 1:47 p.m. and that the road was open to traffic at the slide location.
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The latest in a series of storms brought with it rockslides that closed two North Coast roadways: Highway 1 just north of the Ragged Point Inn, and Santa Rosa Creek Road between the McCall and Linn’s farm.
County Public Works crews worked early Wednesday in the slide-prone area along Santa Rosa Creek, about four miles past Coast Union High School, despite continuing rain and other rocks and soggy soil looming overhead.
It was still raining, with the storm expected to continue through Thursday. Forecasters were predicting some periods of heavy rainfall.
The Cambria Fire Department hadn’t yet received any emergency calls related to the storm, but extra staff members were on standby, as were members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Santa Rosa Creek Road
Aaron Linn of nearby Linn’s Farm Store (6275 Santa Rosa Creek Road) wrote on Facebook that he’d “had to hike my nephew through and drive him to Cambria, return and grab four more of our Linn family members and go back through. Thanks to County Roads for the quick response, they were on the job so quickly I barely was allowed to come home!”
Teri McCall said some rocks in the slide “are as big as a minivan. We’d parked and walked down to the slide. Looking up, seeing all the rocks above us that could slide, I said ‘I don’t think I want to stand here very long.’”
At Ragged Point near the San Luis Obispo-Monterey county line, people could still get to the inn from the south.
Caltrans officials plan to “assess the situation Thursday morning,” according to spokesman Jim Shivers. “It’s not a large event, but we are seeing a continual stream of rocks” coming down. “We hope to have things cleared” by sometime Friday morning, he said about 9 a.m. Wednesday.
That’s if the ongoing rainfall doesn’t trigger more rock and/or mudslides. It’s a big if.
We wanted rain
How much rain will fall where in such a short period of time was the big question.
Central Coast residents had spent much of January and February fervently wanting it to rain. Now, they’re hoping that the rain they’d asked for doesn’t fall all at once.
Officials “are closely monitoring the situation” at Santa Rosa Creek Road and in other areas of the county, Ron Alsop, the county’s emergency manager, said about 11 p.m. Tuesday.
As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Cambria had received 1.14 inches of rainfall, and San Simeon, 1.06 inches, and Rocky Butte, 2.29 inches.
And it was still raining.
PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey had predicted Tuesday that the storm could produce from 4 to 6 inches of rain, depending on location, elevation and other factors. More precipitation, perhaps lots more, was expected along the Santa Lucia ridge where, at higher elevations, so-called “orographic enhancement” can squeeze more moisture out of the storm.
The National Weather Service issued flood advisories for Santa Barbara, Ventura and Southern San Luis Obispo counties, among other areas. Possible thunder was predicted for Thursday. By 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, rain rates had already exceeded 0.25 inch in less than 10 minutes in southern SLO county.
In and below areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties that had burned, flooded and slid earlier this year, officials had ordered mandatory and voluntary evacuations as early as Monday, March 19. Rainfall rates were expected to be higher there.
Meanwhile, North Coast residents were busy battening down and getting ready for a lot of rain in a fairly short period of time.
According to social-media interviews, that prep covered everything from making big pots of soup and coffee, filling and placing sandbags, cleaning gutters and checking sump pumps, topping up vehicle gas tanks, charging digital devices, putting ice blocks in freezers and refrigerators, and stockpiling water, batteries, candles, canned food and non-electrical entertainment (anyone for Monopoly?).
Local and county agencies had prepped ahead, too, but according to Alsop, “more important … is what the community has and is doing, that is being much better prepared as a community, as a result of Fire Safe and a strong CERT, among other things.”
Alsop said his agency is “prepared to coordinate response resources as needed. We here in County OES have begun informing others — including County/Cal Fire chief, county health officer, Emergency Medical Services Agency and others of the history related to 1995 and what happened” in Cambria and other areas of the county.
That included a massive flood in Cambria’s West Village and four deaths connected to the weather, including one in Cambria when a county worker was hit and killed by a falling tree.
In this storm, “if needed,” Alsop said, “we will activate the County Emergency Operations Center to coordinate resource needs and put out, as needed, emergency information. As with 1995, if needed, we will prioritize what available resources are needed the most in a particular area.”
He recalled “a small example from 1995.”
“We agencies ran out of sandbags countywide. A remaining supply was requested for North County and also for Cambria. We asked each why they needed them,” and were told that “a bridge support was being eroded in Cambria. So off they went to the crews that were working in Cambria. We also then did an immediate need request through Cal OES and we received a semitruck load of sandbags from the National Guard.”
Speaking of sandbags, the Cambria Fire Department “talked to the county to get extra sand,” Fire Chief William Hollingsworth said Tuesday. He also has extra staffing on call during the storm period, and notified CERT officials that their help might be needed.
Piles of free sand are available at Cambria at Shamel Park on Park Hill’s Windsor Boulevard, Lampton Cliffs Park at Lampton and Windsor Boulevard South on Marine Terrace, and at the former dog-park site at Main Street and Santa Rosa Creek Road.
Bags are available to purchase at Cambria Hardware, Miner’s Hardware in Morro Bay and other outlets.
Remember to take your own shovel, and a strong back. A half-full sandbag — they’re easier to stack than full bags are — weighs about 30 pounds. When sand is wet, the filled bag can be considerably heavier.