COVID-19 UPDATE | The City is coordinating closely with our public health officials at the Santa Cruz County Health Department to prevent the further spread COVID-19. In an effort to protect you and our community, changes and measures have been adopted in daily operations and activities. For further details please click here for the City’s Response to COVID-19

Floods and Coastal Storms

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

How do I prepare for a flood?
What should I do during a flood?
What should I do after a flood?
Tell me about flood insurance in Santa Cruz

Emergency Storm Preparation brochure [PDF]

Preparación de emergencia en caso de tormenta [PDF]

Video of Storm Prep Tips (El Niño Storm Preparedness Workshop, Nov. 21, 2015)

How do I prepare for a flood?

As with most disasters, preparedness starts at home with an emergency kit and a plan. For more on this, see our page on preparedness.

Additionally, be aware what various warnings mean:

When you hear this...     It means... 
“winter storm watch” Be alert, a storm is likely
“winter storm warning” Take action, the storm is in or entering the area
“winter weather advisory” Inconveniences and maybe hazardous, especially to motorists.
“frost/freeze warning” Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.
“flash flood watch” or
“flood watch”
Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. 
“flash flood warning” A flash flood is imminent — act quickly to save yourself because you may have only seconds
“flood warning” Flooding has been reported or is imminent, take precautions

Decide in advance if you think your property will require sandbags to re-direct or keep out flood waters. Sand bags can be in short supply prior to a big storm so it is best to acquire them early. If the City declares an official emergency, the City’s formal sandbag distribution program will go into effect. Under non-emergency conditions, citizens should obtain their own sandbags. Most home improvement stores carry sandbags but call ahead to verify availability.

Knowing proper sandbagging techniques can not only save time but also labor. Check out the video below to learn more!

Before the weather comes:

  • Be sure that all household hazardous materials are stored indoors.
  • Collect leaves and debris from your yard and driveway so that they won’t get washed or blown into the street gutters and storm drains.
  • Clean out roof gutters.
  • Secure garbage can lids. Also be sure that recyclable items are inside the recycling bins. Loose debris and litter are often blown into the street and end up clogging gutters and polluting our waterways.
  • If you are doing any construction work or remodeling at your home, be sure that bags of cement and plaster, loose materials, and debris are stored inside or covered properly. Otherwise, rain and wind can carry these materials into the street or storm drains.
  • Don’t apply pesticides or herbicides before it rains. Rain can carry these toxic chemicals into our streets and storm drains.
  • Seal vents to basements to prevent flooding.
  • Move valuables and furniture to higher levels.

What should I do during a flood?

  • Pay attention to local news regarding the threat of flooding in your area.
  • Be prepared to evacuate should you need to. Remember, evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for ordinary vehicles to drive through.
  • Avoid driving or walking through moving water. It only takes six inches of water to sweep someone off their feet.

What should I do after a flood?

Regardless of whether you were affected directly by the disaster, the very nature of disasters (being overwhelming and unexpected), can cause an intense emotional reaction. Talking about your experience with friends and relatives can be a powerful tool. Additionally, a professional mental health worker can also help you emotionally recover from a disaster.

Keep informed of local news, your neighborhood may not be safe to return to for several hours or even days after a flood. For areas severely affected by flooding, authorities will determine when it is safe for home owners to return.

Tune in to local news outlets to keep informed of additional flood related information such as boil water orders. Avoid the floodwaters, even standing water, if at all possible as it will likely be contaminated with oil, gasoline and raw sewage among other things.

If your home sustained significant damage from standing water, moving water, or a debris flow, be very careful when entering as there may be structural damage.

Find emergency information on KSCO 1080 AM, on, local TV channels and social media.

Tell me about flood insurance in Santa Cruz.

Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages incurred by flooding. Coverage is available for the building itself as well as for the contents of the building.

National Flood Insurance Program
The City of Santa Cruz participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that makes available federally backed flood insurance for all structures, whether or not they are located within a floodplain. Note that there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect. Contact your insurance agency for more information. Flood insurance information is also available in Santa Cruz Public Libraries or online from the NFIP at:

The City Planning and Community Development Department has developed an aerial photo which displays flood elevations from FEMA maps and additionally provides information concerning the flood insurance zone designations of these properties. This information is available at:

Planning and Community Development Department
Room 206, City Hall Annex
809 Center Street
Santa Cruz, CA. 95060

They are open from 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM, Monday through Thursday or where appropriate by phone at (831) 420-5100. This information is also available directly from FEMA at this website:

The FEMA Community Rating System (CRS) has awarded the City of Santa Cruz a Class Seven rating. The CRS rating is an important factor in determining the magnitude of the potential for flood along the San Lorenzo River. The Community Rating System is a voluntary incentive program that is part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP.) CRS recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. As a result, flood insurance premium rates are discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from community actions meeting the following three goals of the CRS: Reduce flood losses, facilitate accurate insurance rating, and promote awareness of flood insurance.

For communities participating in the CRS, flood insurance premium rates are discounted in increments of 5%. For example, a Class One community would receive a 45% premium discount, and a Class Nine community would receive a 5% discount. A Class Ten community does not participate in the CRS and receives no discount.

Santa Cruz Local Hazard Mitigation Plan - Flooding and Coastal Storms
Current NOAA Forecast


Free viewers are required for some of the attached documents.
They can be downloaded by clicking on the icons below.

Acrobat Reader Download Acrobat Reader Flash Player Download Flash Player Windows Media Player Download Windows Media Player Microsoft Silverlight Download Microsoft Silverlight Word Viewer Download Word Viewer Excel Viewer Download Excel Viewer PowerPoint Viewer Download PowerPoint Viewer