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Central Coast prepares for more heavy weather, but another "rare storm" is unlikely

SLO County is urging people not to cross roads where there signage tells them not to. Officials say it has been a problem in several parts of the county this week.
SLO County Office of Emergency Services
SLO County is urging people not to cross roads where there signage tells them not to. Officials say it has been a problem in several parts of the county this week.

The winter storm is picking back up on the Central Coast, with more rain on the forecast through Tuesday. The National Weather Service said the highest rain rates will likely be tomorrow and Monday, but that the Central Coast will not see extreme weather on the same scale as earlier this week.

Still, Santa Barbara County has released evacuation warnings for riverbed areas including Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. The Sheriff's Office said it will be flying a helicopter over these areas throughout the weekend to warn people occupying the riverbeds.

The warnings are not mandatory orders to leave, at least at this point.

However, San Luis Obispo County still has areas under mandatory evacuation orders in Oceano near the Arroyo Grande Channel. A map is available here.

SLO County also expanded its evacuation warning in the around near the Oceano Lagoon:

  • North of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee
  • South of Wilshire Ave., Highway 1, and Pier Ave.
  • East of Strand Way
  • North of Highway 1, West of 21st St., South of Ocean St.

The county said residents in this area should be prepared for possible flooding and evacuation orders this weekend.

This round of heavy weather is forecast to peak tomorrow. Local governments and agencies have released guidance on how people on the Central Coast can prepare:

  • Take advantage of breaks in the storm and stock up on groceries, gas and other essentials. Closely monitor the weather to make sure it's safe to do so.
  • Prepare and protect your home as soon as you can, and check your respective county or city emergency websites to find out where to get sandbags if you need them.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gas and an emergency supply kit in your vehicle.
  • Stay out of flood waters, because water may still be rising and it can hide hazards. Rapidly flowing water can sweep you off your feet and your vehicle downstream.

For more information, visit your respective county emergency information website:

San Luis Obispo County

Santa Barbara County

Monterey County

Governor Newsom visits Santa Barbara County

Governor Gavin Newsom visited the Randall Road Debris Basin in Montecito today, where he said he's asking the federal government to expedite a major disaster declaration for California which would include all of the Central Coast.

If approved, it would allow federal agencies to give assistance to state or local governments to pay part of the costs of rebuilding damaged infrastructure. It could fund things like debris removal, replacement of damaged public property and other infrastructure repairs.

It is not clear when or if President Biden will issue that declaration.

The Randall Road Debris Basin in Montecito on Friday, January 13.
Beth Thornton
The Randall Road Debris Basin in Montecito on Friday, January 13.

Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal was at Newsom’s press conference and said the meeting “reaffirms the commitment” of local, state and federal government to protect people’s lives, property and the natural environment.

Carbajal urged people on the Central Coast to prepare for possible flash floods, debris flows and more.

“We don't anticipate these immediate storms coming this weekend being as severe, but you never know, and then there's gonna be more storms in the future," Carbajal said.

"So the message to our community is let's do everything possible to be resilient, to look out after each other and to shelter in place and not be out if we can avoid it when it's pouring rain out there.”

Carbajal said he plans to stop in North Santa Barbara County and SLO County in the coming days to check on preparation and recovery plans.

Los Osos prepares for more rain, plans for recovery

Los Osos was one of San Luis Obispo County's hard-hit areas this week, and could be vulnerable again this weekend.

During Monday’s winter storm a retention basin burst open, unleashing floodwaters onto a Los Osos cul-de-sac called Vista Court. The basin is on a hill above the cul-de-sac, a part of a community called Cabrillo Estates.

20 homes were damaged with two completely destroyed from flooding and mudslides.

Ron Munds is the General Manager from Los Osos Community Services District (CSD), which is in charge of managing the damage in the neighborhood and the basin.

“We're still investigating the basin wall. Somehow there was a breach created by water. We're not sure exactly if it came from underneath and worked its way to undermine the wall, but it did collapse and it's quite a big collapse," Munds said.

Munds said the CSD is working on a temporary solution to fix the basin.

Phyllis Schoonbeck's house after Monday's winter storm
Gabriela Fernandez
Phyllis Schoonbeck's house in Los Osos after Monday's winter storm.

“We're working to isolate the area that has the breach, and we're modifying the way we're operating the basin to move the water away from the east side — that's where the breach is — to the west side, and it'll be draining out onto Pecho Valley Road," he said.

Munds said he is communicating with SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, SLO County Office of Emergency Services, and the Red Cross to offer long term assistance. However, it’s still not clear how resources will be distributed and where all of the funding would come from.

Munds said he and his team will be at the basin throughout this weekend as the storm returns. He plans to develop a permanent solution once the storm is over, but isn’t exactly sure what form that will take.

“It's kind of not totally out of my control, but now it's onto other people like insurance companies. And how this is all going to work out for the long term, that's something I don't really have a clear picture on it at this point," Munds said.

SLO County urges people to follow the rules

Flooding from this month’s storms destroyed homes, damaged roadways and even claimed lives in SLO County.

This week, a woman died in Avila Beach after drowning in her vehicle, a man was found dead in a boat in Morro Bay, and a five-year-old boy went missing after he was swept away by a flood near Paso Robles.

“I personally want to express my condolences to those that have lost their homes, but especially to those that have lost loved ones. All the rest can be replaced," SLO County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said at a Thursday press conference.

Horton said SLO County Public Works is working hard to repair roadways that were closed down due to storm damage.

Crews repair damage at Union Valley Parkway and Bradley in Orcutt.
Benjamin Purper
Crews repair damage at Union Valley Parkway and Bradley in Orcutt.

“This isn't going to be a quick recovery," he said. "We've experienced some significant damage to roadway infrastructure.”

Horton said people driving on closed roads has been a major problem in the county. Roads may appear to be passable, but if there’s signage saying they’re closed, he said driving on them can be life threatening.

With more rainfall ahead, officials say roadways risk being re-flooded and they urge people to adhere to closed road signs.

SLO County Emergency Services Operations Chief Scott Jalbert said areas with running water remain highly dangerous even after the storm clears up next week.

“Stay away from streams and stay away from river areas. Do not, I repeat, do not drive through creek areas that have running water. We like to remind everybody there's a saying that we use: it’s ‘turn around and don't drown.’ Stay away from these areas," Jalbert said.

County officials ask that people take warnings and advisories seriously, as weather changes can be unpredictable.

Beth Thornton contributed to this report.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
Gabriela Fernandez came to KCBX in May of 2022 as a general assignment reporter, and became news director in December of 2023. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an associate producer on the TahoeLand podcast. When she's not writing or editing news stories, she loves to travel, play tennis and take her 140-lbs dog, Atlas, on long walks by the coast.
KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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