.County issues evacuation orders for communities near CZU burn scar

Several communities in the San Lorenzo Valley and along the North Coast have been ordered to evacuate in anticipation of strong rains that could trigger debris flows near the CZU Lightning Complex burn scar.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office began door-to-door outreach Saturday, contacting homes in “low-lying, high-risk” areas that had the highest potential for evacuation: most of Boulder Creek and Brookdale and a few areas near Ben Lomond and Felton.

Sunday morning’s evacuation orders included Swanton and the majority of residents off of Last Chance Trail. Evacuation orders were also issued for a few communities in southern San Mateo County.

In all, there were 319 addresses in Santa Cruz County that are considered low-lying, high-risk homes for debris flow, the County said in a press release.

Officials issued evacuation warnings Saturday morning after the National Weather Service (NWS) said that strong rainfall, 8-10 inches, was expected Sunday for several areas in Northern California, including the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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The “atmospheric river,” NWS said, could produce “significant and life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, particularly over burn scar areas.”

Debris flows are fast-moving masses of mud, rocks, boulders, trees and sometimes homes or vehicles. They move quickly and are often deadly to those in their path. 

The County opened a shelter on Sunday morning at San Lorenzo Valley High School. If possible, the County asks residents to seek shelter with friends and families.

Residents are encouraged to look up their evacuation zone at community.zonehaven.com, and register landlines, cell phones or VoIP phones with CodeRED by visiting scr911.org and signing up for notifications, or texting SCR911 to 99411.

The only way to avoid debris flows is to move to safety prior to any debris flow event. 

When evacuating, the County says to follow these steps:  

  • Follow instructions from local officials, including for travel routes.  
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.  
  • Take your emergency go-bag or disaster supply kit.  
  • Lock your home. 
  • Let others know when you left and where you are going.  
  • Make arrangements for pets and livestock, if necessary.  

In preparation for debris flow evacuations, the County opened a virtual Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP). Residents can call 831-454-2181 with questions regarding evacuations and resources.

The weather forecast anticipates high winds and the potential for downed trees. Residents should exercise caution when leaving their homes during the storm. For road conditions, visit sccroadclosure.com.

Those needing assistance with large animals should call Equine Evac at 831-708-8998.

Sunday’s evacuations mark the second time officials have asked residents to leave their homes because of possible debris flows in the aftermath of the CZU fires.

In January, less than half of residents that were asked to evacuate from the Santa Cruz Mountains did so, according to data reported to the Press Banner by the Boulder Creek Fire Department.


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Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.
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