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)

SALINAS VALLEY — This week’s forecast of heavy rain and gusty winds has caused state and county officials to issue warnings, including for flash floods, throughout the Salinas Valley region that continue through Thursday.

Heavy rainfall has led to debris flows and flash flooding in Monterey County’s 2020 wildfire burn scars from the River, Carmel and Dolan fires, as well as caused rapid ponding of water in urban and low-drainage areas. 

National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for the burn areas Wednesday morning, calling it a “life-threatening situation.”

Mudslides and washouts are a possibility in areas with steep terrain, including throughout the Santa Lucia Mountains west of the Salinas Valley. One such mudslide was reported in the River Road area south of Salinas on Wednesday.

Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District has identified 20 to 25 homes and outbuildings so far that have some minor to severe damage caused by mud and debris flows. One resident was injured while escaping her home, the district said.

Monterey County Office of Emergency Services is encouraging residents who live one to two miles from any of the burn areas to be on heightened alert for debris flows. 

“The rain we are experiencing in Monterey County today (Jan. 22) is increasing the risk of debris flow in and around our wildfire burn scars,” said Maia Carroll, the county’s communications coordinator. “Debris flows are rivers of rock, earth and other debris soaked with water and are a fast-moving type of landslide that can reach rates faster than 20 mph, occur with little or no warning, and travel for miles.”

Evacuation orders were issued Tuesday afternoon for those areas due to the potential for storm damage and debris flows blocking exit routes.

Evacuees can get assistance and register for alternative shelter at the following locations:

  • Toro Park School, 22500 Portola Drive, Salinas;
  • Chualar Union Elementary School, 24285 Lincoln Street, Chualar; and
  • Carmel Valley Library, 65 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley.
A fallen tree lays across the ground at Central Park in Gonzales on Wednesday, resulting from a winter storm that brought strong winds and heavy rain to the area. (Jeanie Johnson/Staff)

In addition, there was a soft closure of Highway 1 in Big Sur on Tuesday. The highway is expected to remain closed until Thursday.

Power outages and other road closures, including in the Old Stage Road and River Road areas, were also reported Wednesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon, Fort Hunter Liggett announced that all low-water crossings off Mission Road at the army base, located in Jolon, are closed for safety reasons until further notice. Those who need to travel to the Indians can use Mission Creek Road via Red Grade Road.

Nacimiento-Fergusson and Del Venturi roads are also closed until further notice.

“During storm events, always remember to be aware of rapidly rising water levels and swift moving water,” FHL stated in a news release. “‘Turn Around and Don’t Drown.’ The Salinas River is extremely hazardous during these rain events and ALL residents are advised to stay clear of the river bed.”

Countywide, residents are advised to avoid rising or muddy water; movement of fences, poles, walls, boulders or trees; new cracks in plaster, tile, brick, streets or foundations; windows or doors jamming; unusual sounds, such as trees cracking, boulders knocking together or rumbling rising in volume; as well as any signs of collapsed pavement, mud or fallen rocks.

“I know this year has been light on rainfall, and the last predicted storm didn’t pack the punch it seemed to promise,” said Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez, who oversees District 3 in South Monterey County, in an online announcement Jan. 24. “That doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. The grass has yet to come back, and the burn scars from this summer’s fire are still fresh.”

Residents who live near slopes are advised to not sleep in lower-floor bedrooms on the sides of their house facing the slope, especially on rainy days.

“Be prepared, have a plan, check your gutters and down spouts for blockages and debris,” Lopez said. “Stay situationally aware based on your location. Food and batteries are a must with water in the emergency supply. Most importantly. Stay safe.”

Snow covers the Santa Lucia Mountains near King City on Tuesday, before a second storm brought heavy rain and strong winds overnight and into Wednesday. (Tarmo Hannula/Staff)

The rainfall seen Sunday through Monday was supposed to be part of the weaker of two storm systems coming through the area, according to the National Weather Service. 

The more severe storm began yesterday and is expected to continue through late Thursday. Rain totals from the second storm are expected to total 2.5 to 4.5 inches in lower elevations and 4 to 7 inches in the hills and mountains. However, the Santa Lucia Mountains on the western side of the Salinas Valley could receive up to 11 inches of rainfall.

County residents can sign up for emergency alerts at alertmontereycounty.org. The county recommends anyone who feels his or her life is in danger to not wait for an alert, and to evacuate immediately.

Ryan Cronk contributed to this article.

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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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