December 3, 2012
If you thought it was a wet weekend on the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas, you should have seen Big Sur.
The NOAA National Weather Service's five-day rainfall totals—covering the three storms that battered the S.F. and Monterey Bay areas from Wednesday, Nov. 28 and to Sunday, Dec. 2—shows the Big Sur Coast Range taking the biggest hits in Monterey County.
The city of Monterey absorbed a relatively mild 3.00 inches; Salinas, 3.44; and Carmel Valley, 4.72. Spotty power outages affected thousands of households and businesses, from Seaside on Wednesday to Carmel Valley on Sunday. Several roads, including Alisal, Old Stage and Hartnell roads in Salinas, temporarily flooded.
But the downpours in the mountains to the south made the Peninsula's rainfall look like drizzle.
Mining Ridge, north of Cone Peak in southern Big Sur, set the Central Coast high for this storm series wtih 18.27 inches. Three Peaks and Anderson Peak weren't much drier, with 15.67 and 15.63 inches, respectively. Even Andrew Molera State Park, on the coastal north of Big Sur, doubled the Peninsula average with 7.48 inches.
Monterey County Planning Commissioner Keith Vandevere explains in his blog, Xasáuan Today: "Rising directly from the ocean to over 5,000 feet at Cone Peak, the Coast Ridge forms a high wall, lifting clouds and wringing an incredible amount of moisture out of passing storms."
The impacts spilled into the Big Sur and Arroyo Seco rivers. Vandevere reports that the Arroyo Seco surged from 9 cubic feet per second before the rains to about 14,000 cubic feet per second Sunday afternoon, then quickly subsided. The Big Sur River surged to 10.51 feet mid-day Sunday, officially at flood stage, but dropped back down to 6.5 feet by Monday morning.
By 2pm Sunday NOAA had announced the storm's exit, canceling high-surf and flash-flood warnings. Little to no additional rain is expected today or tomorrow. But the threat of landslides remains raw in Big Sur.
Around 9:30pm on Sunday, Caltrans closed a section of Highway 1; blogger Big Sur Kate reports the cause as a landslide at Rain Rocks by Lucia. The highway was reopened by Monday morning.