Santa Clara County

Bay Area Tries to Dry Out Before Next Round of Rain

Mudslide on Highway 17 has Cal Trans crews scrambling to clean up; Tuesday morning commute likely to be affected

As the Bay Area attempts to dry out following a soaking wet weekend, another round of rain is bearing down on a region already battered by flooding and gusty winds.

Crews in all nine Bay Area counties spent the entirety of Monday fishing out cars from flooded roadways, repairing toppled power lines, picking up downed trees and clearing hazardous mudslides.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, a 750-cubic-yard mudslide covered the northbound lanes of Highway 17 early Monday morning, closing the roadway and causing a major headache for commuters, with traffic in both directions sharing the southbound lanes.

Cal Trans crews were racing to clean up the mess for most of the day, knowing another storm is on the way. They had to clear a vehicle that was stuck in the mud, plus myriad debris such as tree stumps, boulders, branches, loose dirt and gravel, officials said. Then they began removing the mud.

"Mother Nature has the ultimate say in everything, and we see what can happen," CHP Officer Jeff Lutz said.

The CHP said motorists would likely continue sharing the southbound lanes into the evening commute and possibly the Tuesday morning rush hour. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Flood waters were slowly receding in Gilroy on Monday after closing down Highway 101 late Sunday. Surface streets and fields were still underwater in the southern part of the city. Marianne Favro reports.

In Gilroy, at the southern tip of Santa Clara County, floodwaters from overflowing Uvas Creek were receding slowly after covering open fields and surface streets and shutting down Highway 101 late Sunday night and into Monday morning. The closure lasted about eight hours.

The response to that flooding led to a rescue of two people stranded on the second story of a nearby home in which crews used a boat and ladder.  

Many areas in Gilroy, including a main thoroughfare called Silvas Crossing, still were underwater Monday.

"I'm really shocked," resident Carol Lettieri said. "I have never seen it like this. There is so much water!"

Sally Osaki added, "Hopefully it doesn't get too much higher than it is already."

In the North Bay, the rain triggered flooding, mudslides, closed roads and school closures in Sonoma County. One mudslide flowed among four homes in Guerneville.

"Major mudslide coming from a couple hundred yards up the hill," resident Rick Smith said. "It just came back with vengeance starting this morning."

Along the Russian River, an entire campground was submerged and homes were threatened by flooding. And as water levels started to recede, fire crews were still responding to a variety of calls.

"We were mostly going to trees down and all the hazardous conditions, and today we kind of switched over the rescue side," said Chuck Francesch of the Forestville Fire Department.

The Russian River was at its highest level since 2006.

The rough string of weather could be responsible for costing the lives of multiple people. Among the dead include a woman who was struck and killed by a falling tree in San Ramon and a cab driver who lost control of his vehicle and plunged into an estuary in Oakland.

Seventy-two hour rainfall totals from the North Bay to the South Bay and everywhere in between ranged anywhere from nearly 13 inches of precipitation to just about one inch. Sections of Guerneville topped out at 12.96 inches, the Lexington Hills in Santa Clara County collected 9.8 inches and Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountains received 8.03 inches of rain. Peaks in Monterey County were also doused with 10 to 12 inches of water.

Those regions will receive even more saturation when the next system of widespread rain arrives on Tuesday.

Flood warnings remain in effect on Monday for Solano and Sonoma counties. A coastal flood advisory is also in effect for every Bay Area county excluding Solano County. Additional advisories could be implemented as Tuesday's storm approaches.

Severe weather, including dangerous winds, prompted ski resorts near Lake Tahoe to shut down service over the weekend and into Monday. Yosemite National Park was also closed over the weekend and on Monday because of flooding. Yosemite Valley is scheduled to re-open on Tuesday morning.

NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro, Robert Handa and Elyce Kirchner contributed to this report.

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