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Saturday, January 28, 2023

In This California Mountain Town, Multiple Storms Deal Multiple Blows

FELTON, Calif — It was around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning when Bennett Williamson heard strong winds outside his bedroom window. Then he heard cracking, which quickly turned to crashing, then to car alarms blaring down his narrow mountain street.

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A massive Douglas fir had uprooted from his front yard, toppled his shed and landed atop several of his neighbors’ cars, smashing their windows on impact. “It somehow didn’t hit any houses, which was amazing,” said Mr. Williamson, 37, a graduate student who, with his partner had bought a house in Felton a year ago. Nearby, the hood of one SUV was crushed like a soda can.

On Saturday in Felton, a town in the San Lorenzo Valley in hard-hit Santa Cruz County, residents were still feeling the impact from Tuesday’s storm when Saturday’s rains hit. Mr. Williamson’s area, the close-knit Mount Hermon neighborhood, has been without power since the night his tree fell, and no one has come to fully assess the damage of the electric lines. Most households have been relying on their personal generators. Some children have missed school, unable to get rides.

Rebecca Turvy, 43, a special education coordinator, who lives with her husband and two young sons near Mr. Williamson, was already dealing with a flooded garage and laundry room, a waterlogged garden, and a retaining wall that she worried was ready to collapse.

The latest storm brought flooding in parts of Felton that triggered evacuation orders, but the rains were not nearly as destructive as last weekend’s storms, said Captain Ian Jones of the Felton Volunteer Fire Department.

The nearby community of Felton Grove, which is under an evacuation warning, is used to being flooded by the San Lorenzo River and is built to withstand rising waters, he said.

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“In that storm’s shadow, this has not been as bad,” he said referring to earlier in the week. “Of course that could change at any moment.”

By Saturday afternoon, the river had receded and was not expected to flood again, according to Captain Jones. He said the biggest hazard remained falling trees and landslides blocking roads. That morning, two trees fell on a home but narrowly missed both the car in the driveway and the large propane gas tanks many residents in the mountain community rely on, he said.

Mr. Williamson, who is originally from Massachusetts, said he used to scoff at Californians who complained about the weather, but he has begun to change his mind. “The weather issues here are much more extreme,” he said.

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Ms. Turvy would agree. “In the San Lorenzo Valley,” she said, “we’ve developed some thick skin.”



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FELTON, Calif — It was around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning when Bennett Williamson heard strong winds outside his bedroom window. Then he heard cracking, which quickly turned to crashing, then to car alarms blaring down his narrow mountain street.

A massive Douglas fir had uprooted from his front yard, toppled his shed and landed atop several of his neighbors’ cars, smashing their windows on impact. “It somehow didn’t hit any houses, which was amazing,” said Mr. Williamson, 37, a graduate student who, with his partner had bought a house in Felton a year ago. Nearby, the hood of one SUV was crushed like a soda can.

On Saturday in Felton, a town in the San Lorenzo Valley in hard-hit Santa Cruz County, residents were still feeling the impact from Tuesday’s storm when Saturday’s rains hit. Mr. Williamson’s area, the close-knit Mount Hermon neighborhood, has been without power since the night his tree fell, and no one has come to fully assess the damage of the electric lines. Most households have been relying on their personal generators. Some children have missed school, unable to get rides.

Rebecca Turvy, 43, a special education coordinator, who lives with her husband and two young sons near Mr. Williamson, was already dealing with a flooded garage and laundry room, a waterlogged garden, and a retaining wall that she worried was ready to collapse.

The latest storm brought flooding in parts of Felton that triggered evacuation orders, but the rains were not nearly as destructive as last weekend’s storms, said Captain Ian Jones of the Felton Volunteer Fire Department.

The nearby community of Felton Grove, which is under an evacuation warning, is used to being flooded by the San Lorenzo River and is built to withstand rising waters, he said.

“In that storm’s shadow, this has not been as bad,” he said referring to earlier in the week. “Of course that could change at any moment.”

By Saturday afternoon, the river had receded and was not expected to flood again, according to Captain Jones. He said the biggest hazard remained falling trees and landslides blocking roads. That morning, two trees fell on a home but narrowly missed both the car in the driveway and the large propane gas tanks many residents in the mountain community rely on, he said.

Mr. Williamson, who is originally from Massachusetts, said he used to scoff at Californians who complained about the weather, but he has begun to change his mind. “The weather issues here are much more extreme,” he said.

Ms. Turvy would agree. “In the San Lorenzo Valley,” she said, “we’ve developed some thick skin.”



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