SANTA CRUZ – While neighbors exchanged tales about planes buzzing overhead and mothers wondered what precautions to take for their kids, state officials Friday night were reviewing the progress of their aerial spraying efforts in Santa Cruz County and likely to announce today that their work here is over – at least for now.
“We got a lot done in Santa Cruz,” said Nancy Lungren, a spokeswoman for the Department of Food and Agriculture, which is in the infancy of a three-year program to prevent spread of the light brown apple moth.
“Judging from our progress, Friday will likely be the last night,” she said Friday.
The state, however, may have to do some more spraying in Salinas and Prunedale tonight, Lungren said.
After fog grounded planes and delayed spraying efforts most of the week, state officials seized on clear skies to apply a much-discussed pesticide over coastal areas between Santa Cruz and Aptos including parts of Scotts Valley on Thursday and less populated inland areas and parts of Monterey County on Friday.
But not to the pleasure of all. If it wasn’t concern about the pesticide’s safety, which has sparked at least three lawsuits and dozens of protests, it was the hum of three planes flying from 8 p.m. into the early morning hours Thursday and Friday that had residents a little rattled.
“It felt like World War II or something,” said Hilary Hultzen, who is staying in a truck trailer outside her brother’s home on Santa Cruz’s Westside. “We’re all a little freaked out,” she said.
Further south, Soquel resident Akin Babatola said he was restless, too, because planes were flying over his home every 15 minutes, or so it seemed.
“My wife said just put on your headset and go back to sleep,” he added.
The white, two-engine planes made continuous runs from the Salinas airport to Santa Cruz County, spraying at heights of 500 feet and above and avoiding release of the pesticide over the ocean and other waterways, according to state officials. The spray coming out of the planes’ nozzles was not likely visible from the ground and although it can leave watery traces when it hits the earth, is not recognizable, they said.
State officials reported 663 calls Thursday night to its safety hotline.
“Not all were hate calls,” said Lungren. “They were more about wanting information, but we got plenty of hate calls.”