Diane Marcel
Diane Marcel with her horses Anden and Disney at Covered Bridge Equestrian Center Feb. 4. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

At 12:48pm on Sunday, the lights flickered momentarily at The Grove Cafe and Bakery in Felton.

“Uh, oh,” said a kitchen employee in a cheery voice, as patrons sipped on their $4.36 drip coffee and other items.

But the atmosphere of the restaurant barely skipped a beat as the dreamy indie music and murmuring of conversation continued, punctuated only by bursts of latte-steaming.

Just over an hour earlier, the Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience had sent out a “Winter Storm ADVISORY” noting the National Weather Service was predicting significant rainfall and winds into the evening.

“Expect traffic impacts and power outages due to falling trees and branches,” read the text. “If possible, avoid travel today unless it is necessary.”

The alert urged residents not to drive through flooded roads.

“With the ground already saturated, flooding of local creeks and rivers may be possible in some waterways, with flooding potential near the San Lorenzo River, Soquel Creek, Aptos Creek, and Corralitos and Salsipuedes creeks,” it said. “If you have experienced flooding on your property in the past, we urge you to TAKE PROTECTIVE MEASURES.”

But around noon, the full fury of the storm had not materialized, at least not to the extent San Lorenzo Valley saw in early 2023—week after week.

“It’s kind of anti-climactic,” said Don Davis, a 39-year-old Boulder Creek resident. “Not as big a deal as last year.”

Plus, he said he loves the beneficial aspects of the rainshowers.

“It’s not too bad,” he said. “We have six inches of topsoil—and the rain—for life on this planet.

“If you want to appreciate the summer…you can’t just have it all the time.”

Highway 9 debris
Forest debris was scattered along Highway 9. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

A storm like this was simply water off a duck’s back for a guy like Davis.

“I’m the grumpy old ‘mountain man,’” he said, noting even if the power goes out there are plenty of ways to stay entertained. “I tell people, ‘Back in my day, movies were called books.’”

But he recognizes downstream residents may face greater flooding impacts than he would.

“I’m right by the river, but up on the hill,” he said. “You guys all get your flooding from us.”

Fred Cox, 71, of Scotts Valley said authorities had predicted Mother Nature would be meaner, particularly in terms of the wind.

“I didn’t see any more than 35-mile-per-hour gusts,” he said. “They were talking about 50-60.”

Nevertheless, auburn forest litter was strewn across Highway 9, causing motorists to slow down and dodge large sticks and redwood boughs.

Cox said he was thankful a 10-foot oak tree had recently been removed from his property.

“I’m grateful that the redwood trees are getting water,” he said. “I’m grateful that the reservoirs are filling-up.”

Felton resident Susan Merritt, 74, said she’d just returned from a trip to Yosemite with her husband, noting conditions were slushy.

She said they’d escaped from the elements by taking a two-hour sightseeing tour.

Susan Merritt
Susan Merritt outside Wild Roots Market in Felton. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

By the time she spoke with the Press Banner after a visit to Wild Roots Market in Felton, the rain had stopped.

“It’s been pretty on-and-off,” she said.

Austin Wesley Eastridge, Jr. couldn’t have agreed more.

“I learned a new word today,” the 73-year-old Boulder Creek resident said. “Intermittent—It means ‘on-and-off.’”

He said the Mormon church service in Ben Lomond he’d attended earlier in the day had to contend with a power outage.

“I’m a surfer and a sailor and I’ve learned quite a bit about water,” he said. “When it’s coming down…it’s coming down in quite a large volume.”

Aptos resident Diane Marcel, 61, had arrived in Felton to check on her two endurance horses Anden and Disney.

“They’re really stressed out,” she said, as one twirled around the stable. “They’re high-strung.”

But the forecast had been revised downward, meaning it wasn’t looking like the river was, in fact, going to overtake its banks—and so they wouldn’t have to evacuate.

“We’re feeling pretty lucky actually,” she said, noting last year they had to evacuate four times, whereas this winter that hadn’t happened. “We’re all relaxed.”

However, some boarders did haul their livestock from the Covered Bridge Equestrian Center to other locations—just in case.

Throughout the afternoon, the weather made a mess of things throughout much of the San Lorenzo Valley, with first responders directing traffic around a downed tree on Highway 9 north of Brookdale and Boulder Creek Fire Protection District firefighters preventing people from approaching tree-damaged wires along Two Bar Road near Boulder Creek as they waited for a PG&E crew to appear.

Around 3:30pm, Capt. Matt Sanders of the Ben Lomond Fire Protection District said, after a slow night, they’d just received 4-5 calls for service in the previous hour or so.

But, he added, “It’s nothing like last year.”

At 5:26pm, the entire Empire Grille bar cheered at the Tracy Chapman performance at the Grammys (on the TV above) was cut off by a sudden blackout.

It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying the performance—they were (one customer even sang out one of the lyrics after the power got cut). It was just that, given the pain of the prior year’s ordeal, this storm felt exciting.

And the cooks kept on cooking with the assistance of a flashlight.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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