MONTEREY — With an atmospheric river storm moving in Tuesday that is expected to be the largest in four years to hit the region, officials with the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services started the process of preparing for evacuations near the burn scars of last year’s River, Carmel and Dolan fires.
Office of Emergency Services Director Gerry Malais said late Monday morning his office had an evacuation watch in place and was anticipating issuing an evacuation warning based on projections from the National Weather Service to be in effect by Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“The bulk of the storm is supposed to come in around midnight Tuesday night, but if we were to issue an evacuation order at that point it’s almost too late for somebody to leave,” he said. “They could be subject to flash floods within 20 minutes. So we are recommending that when we send out the warning that people, especially if they have animals or elderly people that may need extra time, to start evacuating.”
Malais said his office has been in consultation with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and area fire departments in preparation. The weather service issued a flash flood watch that will be in effect from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon warning that there is high confidence the thresholds for debris flows will be met for the burn scars of the River, Carmel and Dolan fires.
Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the thresholds for debris flows are three-tenths of an inch of rain in 15 minutes, half an inch in 30 minutes or seven-tenths of an inch in an hour.
“We’re keeping an eye on those conditions,” Murdock said.
The weather service advises those who live near or on a burn scar to sign up for alerts and have a “go bag” ready, while monitoring the weather for forecast updates and heeding local official orders. Go to alertmontereycounty.org to sign up for alerts.
Malais said the Office of Emergency Services does not currently have plans to set up evacuation centers.
“All the responders are in place, so we just want people to act ahead of time so that I don’t have to send the (Sheriff’s Office) or the fire company into a dangerous area because they’re stranded,” he said. “This is supposed to be the most significant amount of rain we’ve had in a short period of time in the last four years.”
The weather service forecast calls for 4 to 6 inches of rain to fall on the Monterey Peninsula between Tuesday and Thursday, with 8 to 10 inches falling in Big Sur. Up to 11 inches of rain are possible in some parts of the Santa Lucia Range.
“In some areas, this will double rainfall amounts,” Murdock said. “Along the Big Sur Coast, that’s a lot of math.”
According to Murdock, the rain will start late Tuesday afternoon, with the heaviest rain in Monterey falling between then and Wednesday afternoon.
Strong winds will come in with the storm, with sustained winds of 36 miles per hour and gusts as high as 59 forecast for Monterey. The wind should begin to pick up not long after the rain begins Tuesday.
The Monterey Fire Department at 600 Pacific St. in Monterey has fill-yourself sandbags available as does the Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District at Toro Park (19900 Portola Drive), Chualar (24281 Washington St.), and Laureles (31 Laureles Grade). Sand is available at the end of Hilltown Road (off of Highway 68 and Reservation Road), west of the Mid-Valley Fire Station (8455 Carmel Valley Road) and on West Carmel Valley Road across from Garland Park.
Contributed by local news sources