Despite Santa Cruz County evacuation order, many remain in mountains

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, concerns over debris flows in the burn scar areas prompted an evacuation order affecting thousands. Yet many people are not heeding the warning.

Sunday’s much-anticipated storm brought heavy periods of rain and fierce winds to the county's higher elevations.

"It’s definitely impressive," said Buckley Dueker of Ben Lomond. "It is kind of a lot all at once, when it collects on the sides of the roads, you realize just how much. All of a sudden there’s a lake when there’s a driveway."

Roads saturated by rain, downpours at times. The storm causing downed trees and wires. Crews were busy assessing wires on Highway 236 near Boulder Creek.

"We plan for the worst and we hope for the best. If it’s stormy, we see something in the forecast, we get ready," said Chief Mark Bingham of the Boulder Creek Fire Protection District.

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Agencies in Santa Cruz County are staffing up worried the storm could cause debris flow in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burn scar areas.

"There’s some sort of layer that prohibits the soil from sticking and being cohesive like it usually is and allows it to potentially move after we get a certain amount of rain in a condensed period of time," said Chief Bingham. "We are just on our tiptoes hoping the rainfall thresholds don't get met."

The sheriff’s office issued an evacuation order for roughly 3,300 people in parts of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Felton and Bonny Doon. Many residents stayed behind.

"For some reason, they are treating it like it’s going to be some big disaster," said Kevin Lister of Boulder Creek. "This is rain. We need it."

Lister is in the burn scar area. His home survived. Some of his neighbors’ homes didn’t.

"In my geographic location, I’m not worried about debris flows because of where I am. I’m going to be fine," said Lister.

"It’s par for the course in the mountains," said Neko Mitchell of Boulder Creek. "We are used to roads washing out, sides of hills coming out, trees dropping, widow makers happening."

Long-time mountain residents said they are prepared for any disaster. They’ve already filled up on gas for their cars, generators and stocked up on food.

"I don’t think it’s going to last very long a couple days, just going to sit it out," said Dueker. "I wanted to get some snacks. Hopefully, go home and watch Charlie Brown or something for the holiday."

 Evacuation shelters are set up at San Lorenzo High School. The parking lot wasn’t full with a few RVs and some people in cars. No word yet on when the evacuation orders will be lifted. San Lorenzo Valley Schools are closed Monday.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or