Rainwater invades Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum at San Lorenzo Park in King City on Jan. 27, after a storm brought several inches of rain that flooded many areas in the Salinas Valley. (Photo via MCARLM)

SALINAS VALLEY — Last week’s rainstorm caused considerable damage throughout South Monterey County that resulted in numerous road closures, mudslides, flooding and fallen trees.

Officials warned of possible flooding and property damage ahead of the multi-day storm, which dropped several inches of rain per day, with totals depending on the region.

Of particular danger were burn scar areas from last summer’s wildfires, where lack of flora would cause increased risk of mudslides.

A home in the River Road area, south of Salinas, is damaged Jan. 27 as a result of a mudslide and flooding from heavy rainfall. (Photo via Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District)

According to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, about 2,403 structures were immediately threatened due to their proximity to last summer’s Carmel, River and Dolan fire burn scars.

Nearly 8,000 residents were ordered to evacuate.

A mudslide covers River Road, between Camphora and Foothill roads, west of Soledad, on Jan. 27. (Photo by Chris Lopez)

A portion of Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast collapsed in a debris flow from the hillside above Rat Creek. The debris was not able to drain and overwhelmed the infrastructure. 

The location was one mile south of the Dolan Fire’s origin, and the state has entered into a $5 million emergency contract to repair the washout.

While the area of the collapse is closed, businesses along the highway to the north and south remain open.

A section of Highway 1 near Big Sur, Calif., collapsed into the Pacific Ocean on Jan. 28 after the area was battered by heavy rains this past week. (Photo via CHP Monterey)

Soledad closed San Vicente Road on the city’s north side after mud filled the street, especially at the intersection with Vista De Soledad.

Traffic was detoured away from the location and the road closed north of Gabilan Drive on Jan. 28 and 29. 

Mud covers the intersection of Vista De Soledad and San Vicente Road in Soledad on Jan. 28. (Sean Roney/Staff)

Blas Santana Park was filled with water by the evening of Jan. 28, and posed no danger to motorists, but people posted pictures online of the so-called new pond.

Greenfield also had a filled-in, bowl-like area as the parking lot of Santa Lucia Square along Walnut Avenue filled with water on Jan. 28 and 29. 

Cars roll through a flooded parking lot at Santa Lucia Square along Walnut Avenue in Greenfield on Jan. 28. (Sean Roney/Staff)

At Fort Hunter Liggett, on the south end of the county, low-water crossings were closed, meaning Nacimiento-Fergusson and Del Venturi roads were closed.

Inside Pinnacles National Park, damage from high winds and heavy rainfall has caused the shutdown of the west side, accessed from Soledad, as well as the Balconies Trail. 

The closure gives staff time to remove fallen trees and repair trail washouts. The closed areas will reopen when park staff determines safety concerns have been addressed.

A bridge is washed out along a trail at Pinnacles National Park, west of Soledad. (Photo via Pinnacles National Park)

“Pinnacles received more than five inches of rain over the past 48 hours,” said Park Superintendent Blanca Alvarez Stransky. “This has resulted in a number of unsafe trail conditions. Since visitor safety is paramount, we need time to remove down trees and repair any unsafe conditions on the west side of the park.”

Other areas dealt with smaller cases of water pooling, which flooded parts of streets.

In Gonzales, pooled water overtook the southern end of Alta Street, but did not warrant a full closure.

“That was probably our biggest problem spot,” said Rene Mendez, city manager for Gonzales. “All in all, public works did a great job of staying ahead of it. If it would have continued overnight the way it was, we would’ve had more problems.”

Motorists drive past pooled water on the southern end of Alta Street in Gonzales on Jan. 28, after a winter storm brought several inches of rain that flooded many areas throughout the Salinas Valley. (Sean Roney/Staff)

Mendez said Gonzales Public Works prepared ahead of time with signs, flashing lights and making sure drainage would stand up to the storm. He also credited partnerships with local agricultural partners, such as working with them to clear the drainage of ditches north of Alta Street and other ditches on the city’s east side. 

“The ditches were all prepped and we didn’t get water coming into our streets,” Mendez said.

In addition to the water, severe winds also played a part in the damages.

“We had a major tree fall down in Central Park,” Mendez said. “Fortunately, nobody was there.”

A fallen tree lays across the ground at Central Park in Gonzales on Jan. 27, resulting from a winter storm that brought strong winds and heavy rain to the area. (Jeanie Johnson/Staff)

Besides the tree in Central Park, Mendez said a few other small trees fell in the city as well as branches.

“Public works was able to get them off the street so they would not be a hazard,” he said.

Sandbagging was also helpful, and Mendez explained the city offered free sandbags to the public.

“We had sandbags available for businesses and properties,” Mendez said. “Public Works had several hundred sandbags prepped. We put them under the arch downtown. They were available for businesses to use. We had sandbags at our fire station and our Public Works yard. The public knows to get sandbags from those locations.”

King City had some areas with large pools, such as the construction on the city’s north side, but City Manager Steve Adams said nothing was significantly damaged in the storm. 

Rainwater collects in a construction trench intended to be a future street on the north end of King City on Jan. 28. (Sean Roney/Staff)

Areas that have succumbed to storm damage in the past, such as flooding in Grove Park and Villa Drive along the San Lorenzo Creek, did not flood this year. King City Golf Course also escaped flooding this time around.

“A number of measures have been taken by the City that appear to be having some positive results in terms of flood prevention,” Adams said.

King City obtained permits to coordinate annual sediment removal in San Lorenzo Creek.

“We believe it made a big difference this year because the creek rose to a level close to the top, but did not overflow,” Adams said. 

In the past, Adams explained King City coordinated sandbagging efforts in the high-flood-risk areas to increase capacity in those locations. He also noted King City Public Works with using sophisticated vacuuming equipment to clean storm drains. 

The city made arrangements to have pumps available for quick response at Villa Drive in the event of flooding.

Signs warn of the closure of Metz Road north of King City after severe rain damage and blockage to local roads on Jan. 28. (Sean Roney/Staff)

King City’s implementation of a street tree-trimming program a few years ago, which attempts to trim one quarter of the city’s street trees per year, was also credited by Adams with reducing the damage from broken limbs. 

Street sweeping to clean up extra debris during the fall also prevented that material from getting into the drain systems and causing problems during storms.

As a preventative measure, the bridge rails at the golf course were removed to reduce damage had the creek flooded, and to prevent blockage the bridge itself would become in such an event.

The city also prepared by installing an emergency generator at its Wastewater Treatment Plant to plan for potential power outages.

On the community end, Adams said King City also made sandbags available to the public at King City Fire Station.

Snow covers the Santa Lucia Mountains near King City on Tuesday, Jan. 26, before a second storm brought heavy rain and strong winds overnight and into Wednesday. (Tarmo Hannula/Staff)
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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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