Evacuation orders remain in Monterey County as new storms expected

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect in parts of Monterey County as the region braces for another big storm this weekend. So far, the worst fears that the Monterey Peninsula could be cut off from the outside world have not come to pass.

The Salinas River crosses under Highway 1 and Highway 68, both of which are the key highways leading to the Monterey Peninsula.  

Highway 1 south of Monterey remains closed to an earlier washout. Had the river crested over both highways, the Monterey Peninsula could have been cut off from the rest of the region. 

The Salinas River is more than 100 miles long, which is why heavy rains occurring a day or two ago, and as far away as San Luis Obispo County, can dramatically impact what is happening in Monterey County and why evacuation orders have been issued. 

Like many others, Melissa Zarnecki who lives in the community of Spreckels is under an evacuation order but, at this point, she has not left her home.  

"The police came to our doors and said we recommend that you leave.  But they told us only three people on our block were the ones that left," Zarnecki said. 

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Nicolas Pasculli, the county communications director for Monterey County, said authorities are aware that a majority of people have not left their homes. No enforcement actions are planned, but authorities want everyone to remain on high alert.  

"They should not be home.  But we know people are. But they should be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. So preparation and planning is where they should be at," Pasculli said. 

Pasculli added that as of Friday afternoon, there are not any problems on either Highway 1 or Highway 68.

Officials are taking no chances on the rain, the river, or the ocean tides. The California Office of Emergency Services has dispatched two urban search and rescue teams to the area, including California Task Forces 3 and 4 with personnel from both the San Mateo and Oakland fire departments.

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"You know the community has been impacted from bottom top. Whether it is a facility being shut down and being out of work for a few days or you are home…you have to find a way out in the middle of the night," said Chris Lopez, Monterey County supervisor who represents the hardest hit areas.

There have also been some levee breaks, which likely have prevented some of the water from making it this far downstream and flooding areas around Salinas.

But with more storms rolling in this weekend, the watching and waiting continue.