As storm-weary North Coast residents and entrepreneurs faced yet another bout or two of rain and wind Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 14 and 15, Caltrans was closing two problematic Big Sur stretches of Highway 1 (again), other emergency crews were gearing up (again) and forecasters were waffling a bit about what else is further out on the weather radar screens.
More rain? Certainly, up to 3.5 inches Wednesday and Thursday, according to the early morning forecast from PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey on Tuesday, with more due Sunday.
Chilly temperatures again? Maybe, but that depends on how you define chilly. Snow or hail? Probably not (snow levels were expected to remain fairly high in these rounds). Other meteorological surprises? Perhaps.
Lindsey predicted that wind gusts could top 55 mph Wednesday morning. If those materialized as predicted, falling trees, snapping utility lines, power outages and other problems were considered not only possible but probable. Again.
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The second cold front is expected to produce 32 to 46 mph southerly winds and moderate to heavy rain on Thursday morning. Rain showers are expected to continue Thursday afternoon and night, Lindsey said.
Total rainfall amounts with Thursday’s system are expected to range between 0.75 and 2.5 inches. The heaviest rainfall is expected north of San Luis Obispo County, Lindsey said.
Partly cloudy and breezy weather is forecast on Friday through Saturday, with unsettled and wet weather developing Sunday morning as another cold front moves through the Central Coast, followed by dry weather Monday into Tuesday.
Caltrans and Highway 1
Gates on either side of Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide are locked and will not be manned while those stretches of the highway are closed, according to emailed releases from Caltrans.
Once those gates close, no one — not even emergency services or Caltrans employees — can get through the locked gates until authorities inspect each one and perform any necessary cleanup. Each area will be treated separately and one may be open while the other may not, depending on the agency’s assessment.
When both spots are closed, the only access to the stretch of Highway 1 in between will be via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road over the coastal mountains to Highway 101, assuming it remains open.
Operations will be somewhat trickier than usual for Cambria Fire for at least the next three weeks, Fire Chief William Hollingsworth said Tuesday. An overnight flood caused by a “catastrophic water leak” (likely broken plumbing hoses) in the Burton Drive firehouse Feb. 6 soaked the administrative offices, training room and sleeping quarters with about 3 inches of standing water.
Until cleanup, dry-out, repairs and reconstruction are complete, crews must operate out of the unheated outdoor bays and by temporarily sharing quarters at the Cal Fire Happy Hill station on Coventry Lane. Hollingsworth said he’s splitting his time between the two fire stations and the CCSD administrative offices.
“This will not affect our ability to respond and provide emergency service,” the chief said in an email that afternoon. “Cambria Fire will remain staffed and available to respond to all emergencies,” but all questions will be directed to the district office at 805-927-6223.
In the week between Feb. 4 and 11, 1.26 inches of rain fell on CCSD’s wastewater treatment plant on Park Hill. A few trees fell, blocking roadways
Preparedness admonitions from Lindsey and others include:
• Keep a battery-operated flashlight and radio within easy reach and make sure the batteries are fresh. Pin a little flashlight to your nightclothes.
Listen for updates on storm conditions and power outages.
• Use safer LED candles. Wax candles are not recommended.
• To keep in touch or for emergency communications, don’t depend on a phone that requires electricity. Keep a standard, hardwired landline handset or cellular phone ready as a backup. Remember, some cell phones and especially iPads and other tablets may not connect as well during a power outage unless you have a “hot spot.” Have an emergency power source to recharge your phone and keep it charged up.
• Store water-filled plastic containers or “blue ice” in your freezer. You can use them as blocks of ice to prevent food from spoiling. Stockpile water, nonperishable foods and a manual can opener (plus matches for lighting your gas cook top, if you have one).
• Stay away from downed trees and power lines. Lines could be tangled and not obvious in the tree. Assume all downed lines are energized and dangerous. Report the location to 911. Then call PG&E at 800-743-5000.