.One dead, several houses damaged in windstorm

National Weather Service reports 65 MPH winds

By TODD GUILD and DREW PENNER

A man was killed in Boulder Creek after a tree crashed into his home, as winds pounded Santa Cruz County after several heavy rainstorms on Sunday.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ashley Keehn identified the man as 45-year-old Robert Brainard III.

Deputies and firefighters responded around 3:30pm to a report of a tree that slammed into a home on the 14100 block of Highway 9. 

Keehn says that one resident made it out of the house, but another was trapped inside.

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“Unfortunately, the resident inside sustained injuries from the tree falling into the home and was pronounced deceased at the scene,” she said. 

There were no other injuries reported, although downed power lines and fallen trees forced the closure of several roads throughout the county. As of Monday morning, five remained closed.  

For information on road conditions, visit sccroadclosure.org.

Late Monday morning, sun rays were breaking through the clouds that have dumped several inches of rain over the past few days. 

National Weather Service of Monterey Bay meteorologist and hydrologist Carolina Walbrun said that rain is expected to continue throughout Monday, which will abate and allow the county to dry out through Tuesday.

Another rain system is expected on Wednesday, with a drying period on Thursday and Friday.

•••

How much rain fell?

(In inches)

Santa Cruz hills: 3.29 

Coast: 2.24

Felton: 3.24

Davenport: 2.49

Aptos: 2.12

Boulder Creek 4.76

Ben Lomond: 5.02

Scotts Valley hills: 2.61

City of Scotts Valley: 1.87

South County: average of 1.8

•••

The most damage came from the wind—measured as high as 65 miles per hour—which slammed the county for several hours and wreaked havoc on the county’s power system. 

Pacific Gas and Electric said that a total of 29,975 people were without power throughout Santa Cruz County as of 11:30am on Monday.

The winds also knocked down several trees.

Paige Gordon stood near her Live Oak home Sunday afternoon, hours after a towering eucalyptus tree—felled by heavy winds— smashed through the top floor and rendered the entire structure uninhabitable.

High above her head, the wind roared through the small stand of eucalyptuses from which its fallen brethren came.

Gordon lives in the house with her husband and 7-week-old and 17-month-old children. Nobody was injured when the tree came down at 9am, she says. But the tree crashed through the attic and into the upper floor.

Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian Numerous trees dropped to the ground and over homes and vehicles on Moran Way in Live Oak.

“If my kids had been upstairs when that happened, somebody could have died,” she says.

Gordon says she has been grappling with the rules protecting the grove—a protected habitat of monarch butterflies—and with limited county budget to maintain the trees since she moved in three years ago.

“They don’t take care of this parcel,” she says. “It is frustrating, because it could have been avoidable.”

Trees also crashed into several other houses throughout the Mid-County neighborhood, all of them from county-owned property.

It is not clear whether the county will be responsible for the damages.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig, whose First District covers the neighborhood, says officials are looking at the issue.

Koenig says that the county has been looking at problems with the trees for the past year, and has removed several trees to protect the residents. 

But the rules protecting the area can limit those efforts, he says. 

“We’ve been navigating the monarch butterfly habitat management plan on the one hand, and of course our obvious concerns are keeping neighbors safe,” he says. “We do need to strike this balance between the natural environment and the human environment. It’s a constant challenge.”

Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian Santa Cruz Firefighters secure the scene on Ocean View Avenue in Santa Cruz Sunday evening where a large tree fell across several homes, vehicles and the entire roadway.

Don Davis, a 39-year-old Boulder Creek resident, called the storm “anticlimactic,” particularly compared to last year.

A storm like this was simply water off a duck’s back for a guy like Davis.

“I’m the grumpy old ‘mountain man,’” he said, noting even if the power goes out there are plenty of ways to stay entertained. “I tell people, ‘Back in my day, movies were called books.’”

But he recognizes downstream residents may face greater flooding impacts than he would.

“I’m right by the river, but up on the hill,” he said. “You guys all get your flooding from us.”

Fred Cox, 71, of Scotts Valley said authorities had predicted Mother Nature would be meaner, particularly in terms of the wind.

“I didn’t see any more than 35-mile-per-hour gusts,” he said. “They were talking about 50-60.”

Nevertheless, auburn forest litter was strewn across Highway 9, causing motorists to slow down and dodge large sticks and redwood boughs.

Cox said he was thankful a 10-foot oak tree had recently been removed from his property.

“I’m grateful that the redwood trees are getting water,” he said. “I’m grateful that the reservoirs are filling-up.”

Aptos resident Diane Marcel, 61, had arrived in Felton to check on her two endurance horses Anden and Disney.

“They’re really stressed out,” she said, as one twirled around the stable. “They’re high-strung.”

But the forecast had been revised downward, meaning it wasn’t looking like the river was, in fact, going to overtake its banks—and so they wouldn’t have to evacuate.

“We’re feeling pretty lucky actually,” she said, noting last year they had to evacuate four times, whereas this winter that hadn’t happened. “We’re all relaxed.”

However, some boarders hauled their livestock from the Covered Bridge Equestrian Center to other locations—just in case.

Throughout the afternoon, the weather made a mess of things throughout much of the San Lorenzo Valley, with first responders directing traffic around a downed tree on Highway 9 north of Brookdale and Boulder Creek Fire Protection District firefighters preventing people from approaching tree-damaged wires along Two Bar Road near Boulder Creek as they waited for a PG&E crew to appear.

Around 3:30pm, Capt. Matt Sanders of the Ben Lomond Fire Protection District said, after a slow night, they’d just received 4-5 calls for service in the previous hour or so.

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