Heavy wind pounds Santa Cruz Mountains

January 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains were back in their homes on Wednesday night after a flood scare when the San Lorenzo River rose six feet in four hours. About 50 residents in Felton were warned to get out, but by afternoon the river had receded. Still, that was far from the only problem there.

There was a little bit of everything: downed trees, power outages and mudslides. It was very cold at times in the mountains and off and on again rain throughout the evening which wasn't good for drivers along Highway 17.

Wednesday afternoon in Southern Santa Clara County and the Santa Cruz Mountains, began with a tornado warning.

"It was a lot of wind, really big hail, it got black. I love weather and I knew we were right in the middle of something there," said CAL FIRE Cpt. Tony Akin.

No tornados actually touched down, but the pounding rain caused six or seven small mudslides along Eureka Canyon Road in Corralitos.

"It's very dangerous, those trees up there are non forgiving. When they come down, they don't make noise, and they're non forgiving, the mudslides also, you just don't know where they're coming," said Akin.

And on Highway 9 near Felton, day two of work continued after a tree fell and knocked out power on Tuesday.

"We're walking around with little lanterns and candles. I feel like we're on 'Little House on the Prairie' or something," said Adrienne LaCapria, a Ben Lomond resident.

Work crews are aging non-stop. Caltrans cleared a massive tree that fell onto Highway 152 Thursday afternoon. But downed trees and power lines are not the only problems. Water levels are rising fast.

Just off Watsonville Road in Morgan Hill, the normally low creek was filled with water; enough even for kayakers to paddle through.

Water also filled part of the lot here at the Auto Expo of Morgan Hill.

"It's about a third full. When the water gets to our door step here, where the cement is, we grab bags and start bagging up, so we had to do that last year and I'm sure we'll do it again this year," said Jeff Buich of the Auto Expo.

It's a ritual the owner isn't looking forward to. The heavy rain and flooded lot always drives customers away.

As for drivers, they really need to be careful. There are warning signs up on Highway 17, because of the slippery roads, and ABC7 saw several CHP officers out with their radar guns on.