Weather

Storm brings traffic crashes, downed trees and flooding to SLO County

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A rainy day in San Luis Obispo

A storm on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, brought plenty of rain to San Luis Obispo.
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A storm on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, brought plenty of rain to San Luis Obispo.

Numerous vehicle crashes and reports of flooding, mudslides and downed trees kept public safety and public works crews busy Tuesday as a vigorous storm moved through San Luis Obispo County.

As of late afternoon, areas in the county reported 48-hour rainfall totals as high as 5 inches.

Rain began falling steadily late Monday evening, and by midmorning Tuesday CHP reported several traffic collisions and areas of flooding or mud, dirt or rocks on the roadway.

“With this line of rain moving through, you can see the weather on the Highway Patrol website,” Mark Hutchinson, a deputy director of county public works, said about noon.

At that time, Hutchinson said there were no serious areas of flooding in the county’s unincorporated areas, but public works crews were responding to a number of fallen trees in the North County, including one tree down on York Mountain Road near Highway 46 West.

Employees from the county’s road maintenance division were working in the rain Tuesday, responding to problems and “hoping people will pay attention to flashing lights and (county) yellow trucks,” Hutchinson said.

PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey tweeted about 10:30 a.m. that southeasterly winds were blowing at 22 mph, with gusts up to 32 mph at Diablo Canyon, and more than 0.25 inches of rain had fallen as of about 10 a.m. Prefumo Canyon in San Luis Obispo already reported more than an inch of rain, he wrote.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had any decent rain,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s really going to make the hills go green.”

On the CHP website, flooding was reported midmorning at Vineyard Drive and Highway 46 West and Highway 101 and Vista Del Ciudad, on the Cuesta Grade. There was also a report of a mudslide affecting the westbound lane at Highway 41 and Homestead Road.

Highway 1 remained open throughout the day, according to Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers.

By midafternoon, the 11 CHP officers working out of the agency’s San Luis Obispo office were busy responding to solo spinout incidents and traffic crashes as the steady rain kept area roads wet and slick.

Officer J.W. Townsend said there were no major injury crashes, but officers in the SLO area had responded to 28 traffic collisions from Santa Margarita to Santa Maria and up the North Coast to Harmony.

“We have to give ourselves more time on days like this,” Townsend said. “I tell people to give yourself extra time and space. I’m coming to work, and big rigs are passing me.”

In San Luis Obispo, city public works crews checked problem areas throughout the city, but deputy Public Works director/city engineer Barbara Lynch said no major problems were reported.

“We’ve got part of the crew doing patrol to keep the grates clean, and they’re able to keep up with things at this point, making sure the water can get into the drains,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “There are some areas where water doesn’t flow as well.”

Ron Alsop, the county’s emergency services manager in the Office of Emergency Services, said county officials were monitoring the storm but hadn’t received reports of any major issues involving flooding or significant road blockages — just a lot of traffic accidents.

“The county road crews are the ones staying busy as well as the emergency responders,” Alsop said.

County public works staff is monitoring the Arroyo Grande Creek levee, he said, and the Oceano Lagoon (also called Meadow Creek lagoon).

During heavy storms in December 2010, water from the Oceano Lagoon was unable to empty into rain-swollen Arroyo Grande Creek and, as a result, flooded homes in neighborhoods off Pier Avenue, near the Oceano County Airport.

“The Meadow Creek lagoon is rising a bit and they’re keeping an eye on it,” Alsop said.

Late in the day, Caltrans said it had crews patrolling Highway 1 between Ragged Point and Big Sur for debris in the road, but the highway was expected to remain open through the stretch overnight.

Spokesman Colin Jones urged motorists to report any roadway hazards and avoid driving that portion of Highway 1, if possible.

As of Tuesday evening, PG&E reported 48-hour rainfall totals ranging from about a quarter-inch at the Santa Maria Public Airport to 5.3 inches at Walter Ranch in Cambria. The San Luis Obispo Regional Airport recorded 1.42 inches, the Santa Margarita Fire Department recorded 2.5 inches and 3.25 inches of rain was recorded at Cottontail Creek in Cayucos.

Rainfall totals

48-hour rainfall totals from locations around SLO County:

Location

Rainfall

in inches

Adelaide

3.50

Arroyo Grande

1.94

Atascadero

1.45

Cal Poly

2.01

Cambria

(Walter Ranch)

5.30

Cayucos

3.25

Creston

0.94

Los Osos

1.06

Morro Bay

1.05

Nipomo

0.98

Oceano

0.67

Paso Robles

1.36

Pismo Beach

0.67

Santa Margarita

2.56

San Luis Obispo

1.42

San Simeon

1.85

Shandon

0.75

Templeton

1.76

Source: John Lindsey, PG&E

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