The Cambrian

Hwy. 1 at Big Sur closes again as North Coast braces for string of rain storms

Having more rain and wind in the forecast off and on for the next week or so means concerned North Coast residents and officials are keeping really close watch on the already saturated ground and shallow-rooted trees.

Forecasts by PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration included a North Coast chance or likelihood of rain or showers every day at least through the next week, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 5.

According to records kept at the Cambria Community Services District wastewater treatment plant on Park Hill, 7.79 inches of rain have fallen there since Feb. 1, with 1.35 inches of that total having fallen since March 1. Only 12 days since Feb. 1 have been without rain being recorded there, most of them from Feb. 18 through Feb. 25.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, with another predicted “atmospheric river” of rain on the way, Caltrans preemptively locked the gates closing off the landslide-prone Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas of Highway 1, once again cutting off the normal access between Cambria and Carmel. Nobody will be allowed past those locked gates at unmanned locations, not even emergency services or Caltrans crews.

The weather outlook, condition of the road and the geologic stability of the coastal mountains will determine when Caltrans ends this instance of the agency’s relatively new public-safety precaution, one of several times it’s happened so far this year.

Lindsey, who’s also a columnist for The Tribune, wrote on March 2 that an atmospheric river “can dramatically enhance precipitation,” but to do so, it “needs a storm beforehand that can tap into vast amounts of water vapor, which most of the time along the California coast come in the form of plumes of subtropical moisture from the South Pacific.”

Another local name for atmospheric rivers is the Pineapple Express.

In March 1995, one of those storms parked itself over the North Coast for hours. Emergency officials estimated then that the storm drenched the area in approximately eight to 10 inches of rain in one day, causing extreme flooding, especially from Cambria’s West Village area to Cambria Drive.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune