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Atmospheric River Brings Much Needed Showers To Drought Stricken Bay Area

By Da Lin and Shawn Chitnis, KPIX 5

BOULDER CREEK (CBS SF) -- With the brunt of an atmospheric river that rolled onshore early Sunday predicted to batter Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, residents of mountain communities like Boulder Creek spent the hours before the storm's arrival bracing for the wintry blast.

In a social media video update, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Garcia said he wouldn't be surprise if 6-8 inches fell in the Santa Cruz Mountains with possibly even a 10-inch reading by the time the storm front moves out on Tuesday.

"It's a two-parter," Garcia said of the storm. "You got the front coming in (from the Gulf of Alaska), the front is going to pave the highway for moisture that is a sub-tropical tap coming in. We are going to have high to moderate impacts of wind and rain across the Santa Cruz Mountains and down across the Big Sur area."

"It (the atmospheric river) will set up shop and stall around Santa Cruz and it will bring the moisture into the region," he added.

The Santa Lucia Range in Monterey County could see as much as a foot of rain in some spots. Rain in the North Bay was predicted to total 2-4 inches with 2-3 inches in San Francisco.

Forecasters also warned of possible localized flooding.

"This system will result in an increased risk of mudslides and debris flow over wildfire burn areas, as well as localized ponding of water in low-lying or poorly drained areas," the weather service warned.

The region was also under a wind advisory for gusts up to 55 mph and high surf advisory along the ocean with waves up 20 feet or higher.

A cashier at a Boulder Creek grocery store, Wild Roots Market, said it was a very busy Saturday with a lot of people shopping for food before the storm.

"We definitely have extra food," said Boulder Creek resident Marina Moseley. "We're not planning on going anywhere. We're not planning on being out on the roads. Lots of firewood."

Moseley and her husband also filled up their gasoline cans at a gas station for their generator. Most families in the mountains have generators to keep the refrigerators on in case of a power outage.

"It's difficult to keep the house warm so we have to use the fireplace," she said. "And when we lose power, for us, it's like we don't have water cause the well isn't pumping."

Sandy Sund, a Boulder Creek resident of 42 years, survived last year's wildfire. For this upcoming storm, he wasn't too worried about mudslides. He was more concerned about downed trees.

"We limbed all our redwoods up by about 80 feet all around the house," he said. "That way, they can't fall and come through our roof."

The story was the same in the East Bay.

"I'll grab a book and put a fire on it in the bedroom and just stay in bed," said Eric Williams, a resident enjoying a walk on Saturday afternoon. "Just having the rain coming in is going to be nice. See some of the lakes get filled up."

The rain is much needed after an extremely dry November added to the region's drought woes.

East Bay MUD said in a statement their water year began with above average rainfall in October, but the dry November kept the region locked in a drought with reservoirs only 57 percent full.

"We have to appreciate mother nature, what it gives us and when water comes it's nice, kind of a humbling experience to stand under the rain," Gaia Campos, a Pleasanton resident who looks forward to walking in the rain. "There's a whole bridge that's over here and it's completely dried up. This whole area, it's a drainage system and it's completely empty."

KPIX reporters Da Lin and Shawn Chitnis contributed to this report

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