The latest atmospheric river storm began moving into an already saturated Northern California early Friday, raising flooding concerns across the San Francisco Bay Area, especially along Monterey County’s Salinas River.
Waters from the Salinas River near Chualar breached some levees late Thursday and flooded nearby farmland, according to KSBW-TV. Forecasters predict the worst of the flooding will begin late Friday morning, when the river is expected to crest more than three feet above flood stage.
The rising floodwaters will likely flood Highway 68 and possibly Highway 1, effectively cutting off the Monterey Peninsula from the rest of the Bay Area.
The Salinas River at the town of Spreckels rose above flood stage — beginning at 23 feet — Thursday evening, reaching 24.5 feet as of 8 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. The river is expected to peak at 26.2 feet by late Friday morning, remaining in flood stage through early Sunday, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center.
Early Friday, the weather service upgraded its flood warning for the lower portions of Soledad, Gonzales, Chualar, Spence and Spreckels to expect moderate flooding by Friday afternoon when the river crests, at 26 feet.
At that level, 20,000 acres of farmland in the Salinas Valley could flood, and Highway 68 “will become inundated,” the National Weather Service warned.
Friday’s storm marks the eighth atmospheric river-fueled event since Christmas, dumping heavy rains across the state in a relentless series of storms that have brought mass power outages, dangerous landslides, strong winds and frequent localized flooding.
Flood watches also remain in effect for the Navarro and Russian rivers in Mendocino County, though those rivers aren’t expected to reach flood stage until much later Friday and into Saturday.
A high surf warning is also in effect for much of the Bay Area coast, with waves expected up to 25 feet and warnings of localized beach erosion and “farther than normal wave run-up.” The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office Friday morning issued an evacuation warning for the coastal areas of Moss Landing and Monterey Dunes, telling residents along Monterey Bay in areas south of Sandholdt Road, north of the southernmost point of Monterey Dunes Way and west of Highway 1 to the Pacific Ocean to “prepare to leave.”
Carmel-by-the-Sea and portions of Carmel Valley, as well as areas near the Big Sur River, are also under an evacuation warning.
All schools within the Salinas City Elementary School District were closed Friday due to likely road closures, according to a district news release, as were classes for the Salinas Union High School District.
Monterey County has opened six evacuation shelters operated by the Red Cross. More information can be found on the Red Cross website.
Heavy rains are expected across the Bay Area, and into the mountains, heavy snow is expected to make travel dangerous through Monday.
In Southern California, the bulk of the storm isn’t expected to hit until Saturday, with rains forecast across the region, as well as “minor roadway ponding” and “moderate to brief heavy rain, leading to minor urban and small creek flooding,” according to the National Weather Service.