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Mudslides Damage Up To 2 Dozen Structures In Monterey County; Flash Flood Warning Issued

MONTEREY (CBS SF) -- A potent atmospheric river storm stalled over Monterey County Wednesday, dumping heavy rain on areas scarred by last fall's Carmel, River and Dolan wildfires, triggering multiple mudslides in the county.

Shortly after 7 p.m., a Flash Flood Warning for the county was extended until 10:15 p.m. Wednesday night.

According to KION News reports, the Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District was working with other fire agencies in the region to assess properties affected by mud flows.

Monterey County Fire officials described the damage to multiple homes from the debris flow incidents overnight as moderate to severe.

"A few residents in their vehicles had been trapped in a mudslide, so they were able to get out. But as we discovered in the neighborhoods, some homes between 20 and 25 residences and outbuildings had been at least partially damaged by the mudflow," said Deputy Fire Marshal Dorothy Priolo.

The deputy fire marshal said with periodic heavy rain showers and harsh wind conditions, residents should plan to stay out of the evacuated area for now

One person was injured trying to escape from a debris flow. There were additional reports of a second person being hospitalized.

The Fremont Fire Department posted video of crews who were deployed to Monterey County to help with response to the storm. Video showed crews patrolling in the River Road area where they were helping with damage assessments.

While the National Weather Service lifted some warnings for the San Francisco Bay Area as the wide plume of airborne moisture moved south early Wednesday, forecasters have kept the flash flood warning in place of Monterey County until at least 3:15 p.m.

By 10 a.m., Chalk Peak along the Big Sur coast had gotten nearly 6 inches of rain, Three Peaks had received 4.42 inches and Hunter Liggett nearly 3 inches of rain.

Forecasters issued an ominous warning that the atmospheric river was stalled over the Dolan burn zone.

"Model data suggests the atmospheric river will remain directly near or over the Dolan fire area over the next 12-18 hours as the atmospheric river tilts from westerly to more southwesterly oriented," the NWS posted on Twitter.

At 12:30 p.m., the system had started to edge north, leading the National Weather Service to issue a wind advisory for the Santa Lucia Mountains, Los Padres National Forest and the Big Sur Coast that would last until 11 p.m.

PG&E tells told KION reporter Elisha Machado that approximately 10,000 Monterey County customers are without power Wednesday afternoon as the storm continued to have impact on the region.

KION meteorologist Dann Cianca said that flash flood warnings remained in effect for all four burn scars in both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

The heavy rain triggered a mudslide in the River Road area near the Salinas River and Highway 101 south of Salinas. KSBW reported an estimated 50 large animals that were stuck in mud that had to be rescued.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Monterey County confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it had taken in 41 animals for shelter due to people having to evacuate the area.

As of Wednesday afternoon, SPCA Monterey County had taken in nine dogs, 14 cats, 17 horses and a donkey for residents who did not have anywhere else to take the animals.

Anyone in the county who needs assistance with sheltering animals is asked to call the organization at (831) 373-2631 during day hours and (831) 264-5424 at night.

River Road has been closed by the California Highway Patrol from Chualar River Road north to Parker Canyon Road due to flooding and mud.

The weather service said its tracking has the Big Sur coastline as the 'bullseye' for the storm front that has been intensified by the moisture from an atmospheric river.

"Our local in-house model is showing extensive storm totals in the Big Sur hills in excess of 20 inches with a bullseye amount in excess of 31 inches," the weather service said.

By Wednesday night, the weather service reported staggering preliminary 24-hour rain totals in parts of Monterey County, particularly near Big Sur, where totals approached 10 inches in one location.

Evacuation orders were issued Tuesday for parts of Monterey County in or downslope of burn scars from wildfires last year.

Forecasters said the rugged, mountainous geography of the region which draws millions of visitors annually will also play a role in intensifying the storm.

"The hills above Big Sur will be the perfect lifting mechanism to squeeze out moisture as the boundary will stall for upwards of 24 hours," forecasters said. "The Dolan, Carmel and River burn areas from 2020 will be of great concern for mud and debris flow issues. Even without those this is the type of event that usually causes numerous rock and mudslides along Highway 1."

Caltrans has shut down Highway 1 along the Big Sur coastline . The highway closure took effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday between Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County and Deetjen's Big Sur Inn in Monterey County and will remain in effect until at least Friday.

Pictures shared by Caltrans District 5 spokesperson Jim Shivers showed mudslides along Highway 1 through the Big Sur area.

"The extension of this closure is in support of ongoing evacuations that are expected to continue into Thursday and Friday this week and to assess damage from this week's rainstorm," Caltrains said in a statement Wednesday night.

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