Every year, the City spends significant time and effort preparing for winter storms. Staff diligently prepares for wet weather by clearing and cleaning public property drain inlets of leaves, sand, and other debris that could clog storm pipes or inlet grates; stockpiling sand and prefilling sandbags; performing regular street sweeping around Downtown; trimming trees in City parks and facilities; and inspecting and keeping up with storm-related infrastructure to make sure everything we can control is functioning properly and efficiently.

Our hardworking Public Works crew inspects and clears debris from the vast network of City-maintained storm culverts, drain inlets, and drainageways—a system comprising of 150 centerline miles of road, 1,440 storm pipes totaling over 24 miles, 600 storm drain inlets, and numerous open channel drainageways, including curbs, ditches and roadside swales, creeks, and Atascadero Lake. Our team also performs vegetation management in the fall when overgrown vegetation and debris is cleared from large swales and creeks to ensure that storm runoff conveyance will not be impeded.

During the devastating winter storms in January and February, Public Works responded to reports across the entire City, including reports of plugged culverts and drains, downed trees blocking traffic, flooded roadways, and the overtopping of several bridges over Atascadero Creek. The storms caused significant and unprecedented damage to existing culverts and roads and the City has undertaken extensive roadway repairs and culvert replacements throughout town in preparation for the next rainy season. It’s important to remember that, during the chaos of the prior storms, the City had to work quickly and safely to address six major landslides that blocked roads or threatened critical infrastructure, including an overwhelming amount of sediment and debris being deposited in the creeks.  In the ensuing recovery, the City had to perform emergency contract work to repair this damage, including two major creek stabilization projects to protect Lift Station No. 5 near Atascadero Creek and Del Rio Road bridge at Graves Creek.

In the last several months, we’ve removed downed trees and debris from Atascadero Creek and Graves Creek, continued repairs to roads and landslides, and executed our annual inspection and removal work from storm culverts, drain inlets, and drainageways. We continue to coordinate with FEMA, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Caltrans, and other regulatory agencies to guarantee that our City and residents receive the assistance and support that we all need. Winter preparation outreach, including where and how to access sand and cold-mixed asphalt, as well as City undertaken efforts, is all clearly and frequently communicated to the public via multiple formats, such as social media and City website posts, City Manager updates during Council meetings, news articles, press releases, and letters to residents.  In summary, the key focus for the City’s preparation and response must be to protect public property and preserving access of public rights-of-way so emergency vehicles can get to where they need to go.  Since we are focusing on public property and the community’s safety, you must focus on your personal safety and the protection of your property.

Preparing your home and property for winter storms should be as important and second-nature as preparing your home and property for wildfires. While we’re blessed to live in such a beautiful area, we are also prone to natural disasters, and because of the unique geography of our town, flooding can come quickly and devastate neighborhoods with little warning. It’s critical to be prepared to defend your home and your loved ones from natural disasters, specifically flooding during the rainy season.  Protecting yourself, your family and your property is your responsibility.

Some steps you can take now include clearing and checking proper operation of roof gutters and downspouts, grading the yard and landscaping to slope away from the house to provide “soft” drainage, checking and clearing any culverts or drain pipes under driveways or elsewhere on your property, removing debris from ditches and waterways to guarantee unimpeded water flow, trimming trees that are low-hanging or scraping against roofs or impeding roads for clear vehicle passage in case we need to rescue you. It’s also important to remember that many local trees, such as our numerous heritage oaks, are extremely vulnerable to breakage and falling when inundated with rain after a prolonged dry period. While doing yard work, do not blow leaves or grass into streets, ditches, ponds, or other waters—the debris may plug inlets and pipes and increases the risk of localized flooding. Remember: you shouldn’t dump anything other than water into a storm drain, since most stormwater runoff in Atascadero flows to the Salinas River, which ultimately discharges into Monterey Bay.

Finally, it’s always important to be prepared for possible storm-related power outages by double-checking flashlight batteries, charging phones and other electronics, and double-checking that you have plenty of non-perishable food and water on-hand. For more information on storm preparation, please visit www.Atascadero.org/emergency-preparedness or the county’s website at www.ReadySLO.org. With the upcoming storms, if you notice unusual flooding of streets or other storm-related concerns, please call Public Works during business hours at (805) 470-3148, or outside of business hours call our Police Department’s non-emergency line at (805) 461-5051.

If you have any questions about events or activities happening in the City, or questions about any other topic related to the City of Atascadero, feel free to email me at jlewis@atascadero.org. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Jim R. LewisCity Manager, Jim R. Lewis

Jim Lewis was appointed City Manager of the City of Atascadero in July 2023. Jim has proudly called Atascadero home for more than 20 years. Jim holds a Bachelor’s in Public Policy and Management from the University of Southern California as well as a Master’s of Public Administration in Public Finance and Management from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. Prior to his appointment as Atascadero’s City Manager, Jim served as Pismo Beach’s City Manager for the last 10 years, and before that served Atascadero as Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director for eight years. Jim is deeply experienced in municipal management: he currently serves on the League of California Cities Board of Directors, representing the City Managers of California, and serves on the California City Management Foundation Board of Trustees. He is a longtime member of Atascadero Kiwanis, Atascadero Bible Church, and volunteers in Pack 51 Cub Scouts as Den Leader. Jim and his wife love living in Atascadero, and their two kids are students in the Atascadero Unified School District. If you see Jim out and about, say hello!