Residents in Morro Bay are still cleaning up and rebuilding after the storm that hit the Central Coast on Jan. 9, 2023.
After living through that experience, community members are worried about the creek that overflowed last month.
One of those concerned residents is Cindy Stirlen who is the assistant manager at the Silver City West mobile home and RV park in Morro Bay.
“You know how they say it happened so fast and you think, 'oh, really?' You don't have time,” Stirlen said. “That's how fast it really happened. ”
Stirlen lost her home and most of her belongings when Morro Creek overflowed, flooding the surrounding area.
“It looked like a bomb had went off in here. We, I mean, literally walked around in sludge, mud, horrible conditions,” she said.
Gregory Kwolek, Morro Bay’s Director of Public Works, says it was a combination of factors that caused Morro Creek to overflow.
“What happened during the storm on January 9th is that we had up to six inches [of rain] in five hours time. Water came very quickly and it had nowhere to go,” Kwolek explained. “There was also already a soaked watershed, so the water just went directly into the drainage channels and into the creeks, and we also had a very strong tide coming in.”
What is the city doing with active weather on the horizon?
“One of the ways that we're preparing for this storm is ensuring that all the inlets and drainage facilities are cleared out so that water can move freely into the creek and then into the ocean,” Kwolek said.
With rain in the forecast, residents are not only worried about trash and debris — the big concern is a pile of sediment under the bridge on Main Street.
“Nerve-wracking to the point that they've got to do something with these bridges,” Stirlen said.
Community members want something to be done to free up space in the creek under the bridge.
“Where is it going to flow and it's going to make its way somehow to get down to the ocean, so just where the sediment is built up on the side, if that was cleared out and cleaned out, so that water had an easy way to get under these bridges, well, that would be wonderful,” suggested Kevin Stiffler, who lives in Silver City West.
It's a long-term project for the City of Morro Bay.
“The city observed that there were a few inches of additional sediment that settled in the creek and some parts of the creek because of the last storm and because of that, the city has been working in close coordination with state agencies to explore options to remove that sediment,” Kwolek added.
In the meantime, residents are hoping Mother Nature shows some mercy this time around.
“If it happens, it happens,” Stirlen said. “I'm already tore out. It's just going to wash on through. ”
Kwolek says the City of Morro Bay has crews on call ready to remove debris in case of flooding, their public safety departments are prepared to respond to incidents, and they are looking into opening a warming shelter.
Piles of sand to fill sandbags will be available at the Morro Bay Public Library and Cloisters Community Park.