Thousands of South County residents and businesses were without electricity overnight Tuesday due to strong winds and extreme weather from the latest atmospheric river storm that struck the region.
As of 2:45pm March 14, more than 9,000 electricity customers in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy were without power, according to PG&E’s website. All of the outages were caused by weather conditions, including strong gusts of wind that knocked down trees and power lines throughout the Bay Area.
By late Wednesday morning, most of those customers’ electricity had been restored. But more than 1,000 customers in South County still lacked power. PG&E estimated their electricity would be back on by nighttime on March 15.
Throughout the Bay Area, more than 275,000 PG&E customers on Tuesday afternoon were without electricity—most in the South Bay and East Bay, according to the utility company. In the South Bay alone, more than 114,000 customers had their electricity out as of 2pm March 14.
The latest series of storms that hit the Bay Area and Central Coast March 9-10, and again on March 13-14, has dumped several more inches of rain on the saturated region and brought wind gusts of 50 mph and higher into the hillsides. Winds of 74 mph were clocked at San Francisco International Airport; 97 mph at Mount Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains; 93 mph along Mines Road in the East Bay; and 71 mph in the Las Trampas and Oakland hills, according to PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland.
“Elsewhere, widespread gusts of 45-55 mph have been reported and will continue with isolated gusts 65-plus mph possible through the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valleys, as well as along the Sierra foothills and over elevated terrain,” McFarland said.
At times, the storms brought what seemed like an endless onslaught of downed trees, mudslides, local flooding and road closures that left many residents and commuters stranded.
Almost all major highway routes in and out of South County have been closed at various times—and at some moments all at the same time—since March 9. Both eastbound and westbound lanes of Highway 152 between Pole Line Road in Gilroy and Casserly Road in Santa Cruz County closed on March 9, and were still closed the afternoon of March 14, according to Caltrans. The closure is caused by downed trees and mudslides on the route.
Southbound Highway 101 south of Gilroy, as well as sections of Highway 25 and Highway 129 have also been closed for stretches since March 9.
In San Benito County, authorities rescued at least 14 people on March 10 from properties on Churchill Road, Lovers Lane and Mission Farm RV Park. The residents were rescued due to rising floodwaters that were preceded by numerous warnings from public safety authorities, according to the sheriff’s office.
“To our beloved community… Please heed the warnings and take necessary precautions,” reads a March 13 post on the San Benito County Sheriff’s Facebook page. “It is hard to keep sounding the alarms, then dropping them, then sounding them again. We understand the frustration and how much it has worn you all down. But we must look out for you.”
The recent added rainfall has propelled seasonal totals well beyond annual averages, even breaking records in some areas. According to Valley Water, in the 24-hour period that ended 12:20pm March 10, different rain gauges in Morgan Hill and Gilroy measured between 2.3-5.8 inches of rain. Rainfall for the season so far measures more than 33 inches at Anderson Reservoir, 28 inches at Coyote Reservoir and 35 inches at West Edmundson Avenue.
This story includes reporting from Bay City News.