Wet and Wild Start

A rainbow pokes through the clouds over a flooded San Martin

Uvas Creek a raging torrent; only minor damage reported in
Gilroy – Emergency rescue workers saved a man from rushing floodwaters off Pacheco Pass this weekend, while residents in Gilroy flocked to Christmas Hill Park to watch Mother Nature in action.

Firefighters with the California Department of Forestry guided a man to safety across nearly 100 feet of gushing rainwaters after his car skidded 150 feet down an embankment into a creekbed four miles west of Dinosaur Point, according to CDF Captain Scott Mane.

“It had been raining all morning and most of the night,” he said. “It was pouring rain and there was 20 mile per hour wind. As we were setting up to do a rescue, water kept rising and we had a lot of debris coming at us. Initially the water was just below his waistline. By the time we made an emergency rescue, it was up to his chin. He was hanging on by a tree branch.”

Mane said the man, whom rescue workers pulled to shore after he strapped on a floatation vest, was “seriously injured.” He declined to disclose the man’s identity.

“This accident and several others that day were the result of high speed and rainy conditions,” Mane said. “It was a very complicated rescue. It was a stressful situation and we were pretty worried, but we got him. We’re pretty happy.”

In Gilroy, the spectacle of flooding in Christmas Hill Park drew out a steady stream of local residents.

Floodwaters swelled Uvas Creek this weekend and submerged the low-lying Silva’s Crossing at the park’s entrance.

On Monday, cars stopped by the park entrance off Uvas Creek Drive to catch a glimpse of the muddy water streaming over more than a 20-foot span of the roadway. The road has been closed to traffic since New Year’s Eve.

Sean Maiwald, 11, and his parents live across the street and regularly visit during storms to check on the water levels. They stopped by several times this weekend.

“Yesterday it was a couple of feet higher,” Maiwald said Monday afternoon. “It was higher than I’ve ever seen it.”

The only other major weather-related incident in Gilroy involved a fallen tree at the corner of Forest and Sixth streets, which kept utility workers busy through the weekend.

The tree took down utility wires before landing on top of a green Saab on New Year’s Day, according to the car’s owner John Brown.

“It runs but these things are so expensive to fix,” Brown said of his car, which had a busted sunroof and dented side panel. “It didn’t really bother me though. I figured I must be the only one in Gilroy who had a tree fall on his car. It didn’t make much noise. I just heard kind of a plop.”

Brown applauded the efforts of PG&E and other utility crews over the weekend.

“They did a good job of prioritizing,” he said. “There were some live wires out and they took care of those. I have to give them a lot of credit – they were out here in the pouring rain.”

Other than Silva’s Crossing and Forest Street, the weekend storms did not cause any road closures or a spike in weather-related emergencies, according to Gilroy Fire Captain Mark Stelling.

“There’s nothing major so far – just our regular call volume,” he said. “The steady rain is done, but that’s just the weather man telling us so. You know how that goes.”

Overall, Gilroy saw nearly two inches of rain over the weekend, with the Saturday storm accounting for 1.52 inches of that total. Since Christmas Day, 3.6 inches of rain have fallen on the city.

“We held our ground,” Santa Clara Valley Water District spokesman Mike Di Marco said. ” If the forecast holds, we should be in good shape. The Llagas has plenty of capacity.”

Still, it was a busy weekend for public works crews around South County. The Uvas Reservoir began spilling Sunday night. Di Marco said that was due in part to the heavy rains that fell last year. At the start of this rainy season, he said, the reservoir was at 60 percent more full than normal.

“A lot of that was carry over from last year,” Di Marco said.

In Morgan Hill, Watsonville Road was closed for about eight hours Saturday, as were westbound lanes on Dunne Avenue near Hill Road. The city’s public works team mobilized to pump water away from an apartment building on Bisceglia Avenue and removed downed trees and branches all over town. There were isolated pools of standing water downtown.

“We were concerned about the Butterfield channel, which in some sections was overtopping,” City Manager Ed Tewes said. “There’s no outlet so when it overtops it floods through the surface streets, south down Railroad Avenue, but that turned out to not be a problem. There was a lot going on, but it could have been worse.”

Despite being drenched with days of near-constant rain and battered with high winds San Benito County emerged relatively unscathed from the series of winter storms that blew in over the weekend.

The biggest storm related problem was power lines damaged by falling trees and branches, leaving 8,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers without power on Sunday, according to PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith. While power to the vast majority of customers was restored that day, about 100 were still without power as of late Monday afternoon, he said.

“Hollister was hit pretty hard by this storm,” Smith said. Aside from the power outage, things, for the most part, ran smoothly throughout the wet and windy winter storms that, according to the National Weather Service, brought more than two inches of rain and winds reaching 37mph.

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