Monday, March 27, 2023

California river embankment breached by storm, thousands evacuated – Usky News



WATSONVILLE: A Northern California farming community famous for its strawberry harvest was forced to evacuate early Saturday Pajaro River‘S bridge It was broken by a flood from a new atmospheric river that shook the kingdom.
In Monterey County on the Central Coast, more than 8,500 people were subject to evacuation orders and warnings on Saturday, including about 1,700 residents – many of them Latino farmworkers – from the unincorporated community of Pajaro.
The embankment of the Pajaro river is about 100 feet (30.48 metres) wide, officials said. Crews went door-to-door on Friday afternoon to urge residents to leave before the rains arrived, but some stayed and had to be pulled flood water early saturday
First responders and the California National Guard rescued more than 50 people overnight. A video showed a member of the guard helping a driver out of a car stuck in waist-deep water.
“We were hoping to prevent and avoid this situation, but the worst has arrived at midnight with the Pajaro River overtopping and levee breaching,” wrote Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chairman Luis Alejo on Twitter.
Alejo called the flooding “massive”, adding that it would take months to repair the damage.
The Pajaro River separates Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in the floodplain area on Saturday. Officials said flood water coming into wells in the area could be contaminated with chemicals, and residents were told not to drink or cook with tap water for fear of illness.
Officials were working with levees in the hope of towing it when it broke between midnight Friday and Saturday. People sleeping in evacuation centers began working to fix the embankment around dawn on Saturday.
Oliver Gonzalez, 12, told The Associated Press that he, his mother and his aunt were rescued around 5 a.m. Saturday in Parajo. He took his laptop, cellphone and some important documents but left a lot behind in his haste to leave.
“I’m kind of scared,” she said several hours later from an evacuation center in Watsonville. “My mom’s car was left in the water.”
Anais Rodriguez, 37, said first responders knocked on her door just after midnight. Her family packed about four days’ worth of clothes and left for safety. She and her two children, her husband and her parents β€” along with their dog, Mila β€” arrived at the shelter about an hour later with few answers about what it would mean for their community moving forward.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Saturday that it is monitoring the situation in Pajaro.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected and the state continues to support the community,” the governor’s office wrote on Twitter.
The Pajaro Valley is a coastal agricultural region known for growing strawberries, apples, cauliflower, broccoli and artichokes. National brands such as Driscoll’s Strawberries and Martinelli’s are headquartered in this area.
In 1995, the Pajaro River levees broke, submerging 2,500 acres (1,011 ha) of farmland and the community of Pajaro. Two people died and the flood caused approximately $100 million in damage. A state law, passed last year, advanced state funding for a levee project. It was set to begin construction in 2024.
State Sen. John Laird, who spearheaded the legislation and represents the area, said the project is now fully funded but it has come at a bad time with this year’s rains.
“It’s sad, we were so close to getting it done before any of the storms,” ​​he said.
This week’s storm marked the state’s 10th atmospheric river of the winter, a storm that brought heavy amounts of rain and snow to the state and helped ease drought conditions that had lasted three years. State reservoirs that had dropped to astonishingly low levels are now well above average for this time of year, prompting state officials to release water from dams to aid flood control and make room for more rain Did.
Across the state Saturday, Californians braced for drenching rain and a subsequent rise in atmospheric river water levels. In Tulare County, the sheriff ordered the evacuation of residents living near the Tule River, while those living near Poso Creek in Kern County were warned to evacuate. National Weather Service meteorologists issued flood warnings and advisories, begging motorists to stay away from submerged roadways.
In San Francisco, an 85-foot (25.91 m) eucalyptus tree fell on the Trocadero Clubhouse on Saturday morning. The 1892 Clubhouse, a San Francisco historical landmark, was severely damaged, with part of the roof crushed and the inside flooded.
In the Jamestown area – the heart of California’s Gold Rush – funnel clouds were seen Saturday afternoon and the weather service issued a tornado warning for the Sierra Nevada foothills, as thunderstorms and hail struck the region. Another set of tornado warnings was issued in Fresno County, about 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) south of Gold Country.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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