Rain showers keep CHP busy along Highway 17 near Santa Cruz

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An atmospheric river is taking aim at California, but showers Wednesday have already kept CHP busy along Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (KGO-TV)

An atmospheric river is taking aim at California, but showers Wednesday have already kept CHP busy along Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The majority of the collisions are single car spinouts or fender benders from people driving too closely for conditions. CHP reports as of Wednesday afternoon that they'd received around 40 calls for collisions since midnight.

"The majority of which have just been property damage collisions, two vehicle kind of rear end fender benders," said Officer Ross Lee, CHP San Jose Division.

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As ABC7 News Reporter Katie Utehs and Photographer Dean Smith traveled along Highway 17 they witnessed three crash scenes within 20 minutes. At the first location a driver appeared to have hit the side of the roadway causing a minor rock slide. The second scene on northbound Hwy 17 a woman spun out and hit the center-divide, coming to a stop facing the wrong direction. She eventually pulled off the road and said she was okay Moments later they came across a more serious collision. A single car spin-out where a woman driving southbound on Hwy 17 near Los Gators lost control and her car became wedged under the guardrail. Firefighters examined her on scene.

Terrible visibility at times and fallen trees created hazardous conditions for drivers. Standing water on the roadway creates an ongoing concern for hydroplaning.

"The initial reaction is to slam on the brakes and kind of turn the wheel as you feel the vehicle start to lose control. That's the worst thing you can do in that situation. It's going to put you in a collision every time," said Lee.

He says drivers should let off the gas and hold the wheel steady until the car slows enough that the tires regain traction. Having tires with adequate tread and proper inflations helps too.

In some areas the soggy conditions were welcomed. People in Bear Creek rejoiced over the rain storm.

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"It's great. Good for the drought. We're happy to have the rain," said Erin Doan, a Scotts Valley resident. Her son proudly sported shorts and rain boots - perfect for puddle jumping.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District reports the reservoirs are still below average, only 33 percent of capacity as of Wednesday, March 21st.

So the rain is not enough to celebrate that is unless you're visiting from the East Coast like Virginia resident, Judy Steele.

She said, "It's beautiful here in non-sunny California. We like it."

Steele says there's still snow in her own yard, but since she's in the Bay Area visiting her grandchildren she'll happily walk in the rain.

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