SANTA CRUZ -- Steady sheets of rain drenched Santa Cruz County on Sunday, marking the third day in a row of spinouts, flooding, power outages, and rockslides and mudslides on local roads and highways.
The entire county was a mess, with downed trees and power lines blocking roads.
Multiple flash flood warnings by the National Weather Service went into effect starting Sunday afternoon after several hours of nonstop rain.
Ben Lomond saw 5.39 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at 4 p.m., the region's highest total, according to the National Weather Service.
Cars were being towed from the lower parking garages of the Tannery Arts Center along River Street around 6:45 p.m. as a precaution as floodwaters rose behind the building. Santa Cruz Fire Battalion Chief Rob Young said he'd heard the river had already crested in the Felton area. His crews were monitoring the flooding near the Tannery as the rain started to let up Sunday evening. None of the apartments had to be evacuated at this point.
"We're just waiting for it to crest down here," Young said.
Farther north on Highway 9, portions of the road were closed off near Vernon Street due to flooding. Two homes on the Saint Bernard Street side of Paradise Park were evacuated, Young said. He said a few homes on the other side of the senior living complex were also evacuated, but he didn't know the exact number.
A little before 7 p.m., a mudslide was reported to be blocking the southbound lane of Felton Empire near Bonny Doon.
Lincoln Street in Watsonville was closed about 6:15 p.m. after a tree fell across some power lines, police Cpl. Brian Fulgoni said.
Around 5 p.m., a rockslide was reported to be blocking Highway 17 at Sugarloaf.
The 50 homes of Felton Grove were evacuated about 3 p.m. Sunday when the rushing, chocolate-colored San Lorenzo River spilled over its banks.
Longtime Felton Grove resident Liz Taylor-Selling said she and her neighbors are quite familiar with the practice of evacuating during heavy rains.
"The river's up. I know what to do," Taylor-Selling said. "We move our cars, we move our animals. Right now there's nothing more for us to do."
Horses were also evacuated from the area by Santa Cruz County Equine Evac.
"His stall is way in the back and it floods easily," said Linda Richmond, who was taking her friend's horse Whiskey home. "We're doing this as a safety precaution."
According to reports, Felton Grove evacuees were being allowed to return home on Sunday night.
Northbound Highway 1 near Morrissey Boulevard was flooded with about two inches of water near the construction of the auxiliary lanes project because the drains couldn't handle the heavy downpour, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Highway 9 closed near El Solyo Heights Drive in Felton due to wires falling in the road, one of many incidences of wires or trees down across the county.
A "huge boulder" fell onto Bear Creek Road near Highway 9 in Boulder Creek.
Eureka Canyon Road and Highland Way flooded, causing the roads to be shut down around 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Emergency officials reported a mudslide on Irwin Way in Boulder Creek ended up precariously close to a house. No one was injured.
Mud and rocks covered a large portion of Soquel San Jose Road at Hester Creek Road.
At 9:14 p.m., a call went out over the police scanner saying Highway 9 was once again open in both directions.
CHP officers said they were extremely busy Sunday responding to weather-related accidents and roadway problems.
"The speed limit is a recommendation," CHP Sgt. Todd Thibodeau said. "Driving the limit is not advised because stopping distances increase, and you're much more prone to crashing and visibility is decreased."
The heaviest of the rain should have subsided by Sunday night with Monday looking mostly dry, although another storm system is expected to start up with more wind and rain on Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service in Monterey.
Sentinel reporter Jessica Pasko contributed to this story.
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