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UPDATES: Evacuation Orders Downgraded In Santa Cruz County

Jessica deGrassi
Extreme erosion after the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz County creates the potential for debris flows when there is heavy rain.

Note: This page has been retired and will no longer be updated as of 01.29.21 at 1 p.m.

On Friday morning, Santa Cruz County downgraded all of its current evacuation warnings to advisories. Areas around the CZU Lightning Complex fire burn scar were ordered to evacuate Monday morning because of an approaching rainstorm that could have resulted in dangerous debris flows. Evaucations orders were downgraded to warnings on Thursday meaning residents could go home.

Helpful Resources:

Know Your Zone - zones that are under evacuation order or warning. 

Emergency alerts

Road closures.

PG&E power outages

Santa Cruz County Call Center - 831 454-2181.



UPDATE: 01.29.21 at 12:30 a.m. The American Red Cross has provided an update on their work during this week’s winter storm and evacuations. As of Friday morning, 87 disaster responders worked in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties throughout the week. Over 2,000 meals or snacks were provided to those displaced and over 300 evacuees were assisted with hotel rooms.


UPDATE: 01.29.21 at 10:55 a.m. Santa Cruz County has downgraded all evacuation warnings to advisories, saying there is no longer an elevated and immediate danger of debris flows. Residents are still urged to be vigilant.


UPDATE: 01.29.21 at 10:20 a.m. Officials in Santa Cruz County are reminding the public to proceed with caution in areas that were affected by this week’s winter storm. Cal Fire says hazards in the region “are very real and need to be taken seriously”. There have been reports of flooding, downed trees and a utility truck being washed off the roadway during the storm -- minor injuries reported here. On Thursday, evacuation orders were reduced to warnings in Santa Cruz County meaning residents could head home.


UPDATE: 01.28.21 at 3:20 p.m. Santa Cruz County officials say crews are in the field clearing up storm damage. They have no reports of mudflows or debris flows. If you think you may have one on your property, they're asking you to email


UPDATE: 01.28.21 at 10:50 a.m. Santa Cruz County has reduced all evacuation orders to warnings. The county says the warnings will stay in effect until the weather has subsided, adding that rain is in the forecast for this weekend and next week.


UPDATE: 01.28.21 at 9:45 a.m. PG&E has released an impact update on the winter storm that California is currently experiencing. Since the storm began on Tuesday, the utility said 575,000 customers have lost power due to the winds, rain and snow. By late Wednesday 75 percent had got power back with about 16,000 customers in the Bay Area still affected. 

UPDATE: 01.28.21 at 9:30 a.m. Looking at the weather forecast for Thursday -- the National Weather Service says rain showers continue to push inland this morning and will continue to do so throughout the day before diminishing tonight. Central Coast residents can expect brief moderate to heavy rainfall with isolated thunderstorms a possibility.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 5:25 p.m. PG&E says that more than 3,700 customers in Monterey County and just over 50 in Santa Cruz County remain without power as of 5 p.m. That’s down from just just under 10,000, across both counties,as of early Wednesday. 


UPDATE 01.27.21 at 5:20 p.m. A Flash Flood Warning is in effect for the area surrounding the CZU Lightning Complex burn scar until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 4 p.m. The Red Cross has been staffing around-the-clock temporary evacuation points in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. As of midnight early Wednesday morning, they were providing hotel accommodations for nearly 400 people (381) in nearly 200 (198) rooms. These rooms were in a total of 12 hotels.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 3:20 p.m. Santa Cruz County has extended their evacuation orders into Thursday. As KAZU’s Michelle Loxton reports, officials say there is still potential for debris flows.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 2:15 p.m. According to PG&E, nearly 180 customers are without power in Santa Cruz County as of noon. Most of the affected residents live in Santa Cruz and Felton.



UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 2:10 p.m. A Flash Flood Warning is in effect until 6:30 p.m. for the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burn scar. 


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 11 a.m. Santa Cruz County is extending its evacuation orders through Wednesday night for all current zones. This is because they anticipate showers Wednesday night into Thursday will meet or exceed debris flow thresholds.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 10:20 a.m. The National Weather Service says even though the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall have backed off for most of the Bay Area, chances for breezy conditions and scattered showers will continue through Thursday. They are forecasting that higher elevations in the Santa Cruz Mountains may see another two inches of rainfall. The atmospheric river has been focused over southern Monterey County this morning.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 10:10 a.m. PG&E has reported that almost 10,000 customers were without power as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The majority of those affected are in Monterey County with just over 9,500 customers. In Santa Cruz County just under 200 customers are without people.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 9:40 a.m. The National Weather Service has released some 24 hour precipitation totals. As of 7:36 a.m. Wednesday, Monterey received 1.04 inches. Watsonville - 1.69 inches. Ben Lomond Mtn - 2.89 inches. Santa Cruz - 3.10 inches. Boulder Creek 3.52 inches. Scotts Valley - 4.10 inches. Hearst Castle - 5.20 inches.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 8:45 a.m. Santa Cruz County says while debris flow thresholds did exceed in the county they do not have reports of any debris flows. Crews are out assessing safety Wednesday morning, adding that trees did come down overnight Tuesday and are impacting roads.


UPDATE: 01.27.21 at 8:30 a.m. The National Weather Service has cancelled the Flash Flood Warning for the CZU Lightning Complex burn scar area because the atmospheric river and rain storm we’ve been experiencing has shifted southward.


UPDATE: 01.26.21 at 3:25 p.m. Cal Fire in Santa Cruz County says teams that were deployed to assist with the Oroville spillway incident and mudslides in Santa Barbara have arrived locally to assist and help respond to potential debris flows.


UPDATE: 01.26.21 at 2:10 p.m. As the region prepares for a major rain and wind storm to arrive, KAZU’s Erika Mahoney checked in with a local animal shelter that is working to help pets in need.



UPDATE: 01.26.21 at 12:50 p.m. The National Weather Service (NWS) says the approaching atmospheric river will arrive in the Monterey Bay region by Tuesday night. Strong gusty southerly winds will accompany the heaviest rain from late Tuesday into Wednesday morning. Wind gusts will be 40-50mph with gusts as high as 70mph over higher peaks. When studying the risks for debris flows the NWS says, “While there is the potential that all of the burn scars in our forecast area may meet debris flow criteria during this event, the primary target of the heaviest precipitation looks to be the coastal slopes of the Santa Cruz mountains and the Santa Lucia Range.”


UPDATE: 01.26.21 at 10:10 a.m. Those evacuating in Santa Cruz County, that are looking for sheltering options for their domestic pets, can call (831) 454 7226. This is an animal shelter for evacuees’ pets that is free of charge.


UPDATE: 01.26.21 at 10 a.m. Residents affected by evacuation orders in Santa Cruz County, who are looking for assistance with evacuating their horses or livestock, can call Santa Cruz County Equine Evac on (831) 708 8998. Because of safety concerns, volunteers will cease operations in the evacuation zones at 4 p.m. Tuesday.


UPDATE: 01.25.21 2:30 p.m. KAZU’s Erika Mahoney tuned into a virtual briefing held by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, Cal Fire and the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works. Officials say now is the time to get prepared and that it is crucial that residents follow evacuation orders.




UPDATE: 01.25.21 at 1 p.m. Santa Cruz County officials have issued evacuation orders for residents in parts of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Felton and other parts of the Santa Cruz mountains because of potential debris flows. 

Debris flows are a cement-like slurry of liquids and solids that move very quickly downhill and can tear through trees and homes. They can occur when there is heavy rainfall that moves over burn scars or dry soil -- areas of extreme erosion.  

Residents in affected zones are being asked, “out of an abundance of caution”, to relocate to safety as soon as possible. Officials say this includes just under 5,000 people and about 2,800 homes in the Santa Cruz mountains. 

The National Weather Service has forecast an atmospheric river event from Tuesday through Thursday saying there is high concern for flash flooding and debris flows over burn scars. The heaviest rainfall is expected between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  

Wind is also a concern during this time -- gusts of up to 60 mph are in the forecast. This means the potential for downed trees and power lines, that can spark wildfires. 

This is a developing story.