Tank Farm Road and Higuera Street flood in a rainstorm on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Megan Wong / Courtesy

Update, 2:35 p.m.: This article was updated to include information on Cal Poly campus road closures.

The City of San Luis Obispo has issued a shelter-in-place order due to Monday’s severe rainstorm that has left major streets riddled with flooding, car accidents and road closures throughout the day.

The National Weather Service released a flash flood warning around 11 a.m. Monday, advising people not to travel in the “dangerous and life-threatening” conditions. The city’s shelter-in-place order is in effect until the Service withdraws its warning at around 4:45 p.m. 

One to three inches of rain may be added to the existing three inches the county has seen during the past couple of hours.

Flash flooding occurs in hilly areas, such as creeks, streams and underpasses, and can be life-threatening, according to a report from the city. As a result, the city proclaimed a local emergency due to the rain and heavy winds.

City first responders have already conducted six water rescues, some of which with partially submerged vehicles, according to a storm advisory from the city. The City of San Luis Obispo advised that people take the following three precautions:

  • Shelter in place unless you need to leave due to safety issues. If you need to evacuate, please go to the Marigold or Foothill Shopping Centers for assistance and shelter support.
  • Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and do not drive on flooded roads. In hilly terrain, there are hundreds of low water crossings which are potentially dangerous in heavy rain. Do not attempt to cross flooded roads.

Most of the other accidents occurring in San Luis Obispo, including on Highway 101 and Highway 1, are minor collisions and property damage with little to no injury, California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Willoughby told Mustang News.

There have been some minor injuries from road collisions along Highway 101 around Buellton, according to the CHP Traffic Incident Page. Reports of cars driving the opposite way on the 1 South have also been called in by Highway Patrol.

Willoughby said the best course of action during the storm is to stay inside. Students who were on campus before the warning are advised to drive as safely as possible to the nearest, protected area.

“Make sure you’re driving at a safe, slow speed so that you don’t hydroplane or lose traction,” Willoughby said. “Be wary of possible hazards.”

Road closures in San Luis Obispo and at Cal Poly

In a storm advisory issued around 11 a.m., the city reported that several intersections were closed, including Los Osos Valley Road at Foothill Boulevard, Tank Farm Road and Higuera Street, as well as Marsh and Higuera Streets. Several on- and off-ramps for Highway 101 were also closed down, including northbound exits for Prado Road, Madonna Road and Marsh Street. Broad Street is the first Northbound exit available, the city storm advisory stated.

Cal Poly has closed off the roads in several locations: Highland Drive at Mt. Bishop Road, Stenner Creek Road at Highway 1, Via Carta and Village Drive and the Sports Complex Road.