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Atmospheric River aftermath: How the recent weather event will affect the drought in Santa Cruz County

Rain Driving Central Coast

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The atmospheric river that passed through Northern California and the central coast has left its mark with a rockslide in Butte County, inches of rain, and evacuation orders in the San Lorenzo Valley.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that transports water vapor outside the tropics, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sunday's downpour was a force to be reckoned with causing many issues like power outages, flooding, down power lines, among others, but some people were relieved to see the rain.

"Honestly it feels like winter’s felt like before the drought you know when I was growing up this is what it felt like all the time,” said Ben Lomond resident, Buckley Dueker.

The region received about 5 to 10 inches of rain in just one week varying slightly from each location in the county. On average, the Water Resources Manager for Santa Cruz County says the area should receive about 30 inches of rain per year but hasn't received it. 

"Having two dry years like that in a row really puts us in a difficult situation in terms of both the environmental uses of water. Our stream flows were critically low, which is terrible for endangered species like fish. Also, our water supplies were being challenged,” said Sierra Ryan.

For cities like Santa Cruz that rely on surface water -- rainfall is needed but others rely on groundwater which is accumulated over time but the water resources manager says there needs to be a consistent amount of rain for long periods of time.

"High rainfall events tend to be very flashy and the water all hits the ground at once and just directly runs off into the streams. There's not enough time for it to soak into the ground in order to get the recharge that we really want," said Ryan.

The county's water districts do have water conservation restrictions and say that those will still be in place.

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Stephanie Aceves

Stephanie Aceves is a former multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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