Winter weather has begun, even if the official start to winter is still weeks away. And while we desperately need the rain, we must be on guard for the dangers it can present.
The large storm that drenched Santa Cruz County on the evening of Oct. 24, while most welcome in terms of rainfall, thankfully came and went without a debris flow event in the burn scar of last year’s CZU Lightning Complex. Out of an abundance of caution, the Sheriff’s Office increased by ten-fold the number of households covered under preliminary estimates for the order based on forecasts from the National Weather Service.
Luckily, the speed with which the rain came down was slower than anticipated and, therefore, the risk of debris flows lessened throughout the event. This should not, however, reduce our concern about the potential for future debris flows to occur. We recognize the challenges posed by evacuations and appreciate the cooperation of our residents as we work through the first couple of years after the fire and the heightened risk for these dangerous slides.
Many thanks go to our County emergency response team, the Red Cross, the city of Scotts Valley, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District and other community organizations who coordinated the response to the storm. We learn more and improve our operations each time storms of these magnitudes are predicted.
Speaking of vital community organizations, this is a great opportunity to thank Community Bridges for all its support of the San Lorenzo Valley through its fantastic Mountain Community Resources (MCR) center in Felton. MCR has provided important safety-net services in the Valley for many years, including the recent establishment of a Covid-19 testing site. MCR was also responsible for distributing almost half of the more than 500,000 pounds of food provided by Community Bridges in 2020, a year that brought the dual challenges of the fire and the pandemic.
On Oct. 29, during MCR’s Mountain Affair fundraiser in Ben Lomond, I had the privilege of presenting the Mary Hammer Green Hart Award to volunteer Suzie Schwilk, who was honored for her support of MCR’s food pantry program. Suzie’s efforts certainly personify the life’s work of Mary Hammer, who helped to establish the Valley Women’s Club and has worked tirelessly to support the San Lorenzo Valley. We congratulate Suzie and thank her for her dedication to our mountain residents.
Lastly, the County is undergoing the redistricting process related to supervisorial districts, which occurs every 10 years after the federal census. While there were no major changes recommended for District 5 by our Advisory Redistricting Commission, there are boundary shifts suggested around the Santa Cruz harbor and in South County. I want to thank Jim Mosher of Felton, who has been a critical figure in maintaining local control of our water systems during recent years, for representing District 5 on the Commission.
The community has two upcoming opportunities to participate in the redistricting process during public hearings at 10:45am on Nov. 9 and 16 during the Board of Supervisors meetings. Two hearings have already been held, as well as an informational meeting that took place at the Felton Library for North County residents in September.
Additionally, I would like to invite you to a District 5 virtual Town Hall from 5:30-7pm on Nov. 9 to hear updates on road repairs, storm preparedness, fire recovery and other topics. There will be time for questions. The link to join the meeting on Zoom is zoom.us/j/92456075811. Or you can dial in at 1-669-900-9128 or 1-346-248-7799, and use Meeting ID: 924 5607 5811.
As always, if my office can assist you with anything, please contact us at [email protected] or call 831-454-2200.
Bruce McPherson is the County Supervisor for the Fifth District. His views are his own, and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.