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Thousands evacuated as storm breaches California river embankment

WATSONVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A farming community in Northern California, famed for its strawberry harvest, was forced to evacuate early Saturday morning after the Pajaro River levees were breached by flooding from a new atmospheric river that hit the state. I was.

In Central Coast Monterey County, more than 8,500 people were issued evacuation orders and warnings on Saturday, including about 1,700 residents of the unincorporated community of Pajaro, many of whom are Latino farm workers. It was

Officials say the Pajaro River levee breach is about 100 feet (30.48 meters) wide. Crew members went door-to-door on Friday afternoon to urge residents to leave before the rain hit, but some had to be hauled out of the floodwaters early Saturday morning.

First responders and the California National Guard rescued more than 50 people overnight. One video showed a security guard helping a driver out of a waist-deep flooded vehicle.

Monterey County Oversight Board Chairman Luis Alejo tweeted: “We hoped to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst case scenario is that the Pajaro River overflows and the levees burst. has arrived.

Alejo called the floods “massive” and said it would take months to repair the damage.

The Pajarro River separates Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in the area flooded Saturday. Officials said the floodwaters that entered wells in the area may have been contaminated with chemicals, and residents were told not to drink or cook tap water for fear of illness.

Officials were working along the embankment in hopes of supporting it when it breached around midnight Friday-Saturday. Crews began work to repair the embankment around dawn on Saturday as residents were sleeping in shelters.

Oliver Gonzalez, 12, told the Associated Press that his mother and aunt were rescued in Parajo around 5 a.m. Saturday. He grabbed a laptop, a cell phone, and some important documents, but many things were left behind as they tried to leave in a hurry.

A few hours later, from a shelter in nearby Watsonville, he said, “I’m kind of scared.” “My mother’s car was submerged.”

Anais Rodriguez, 37, said first responders knocked on her door after midnight. Her family packed about four days worth of clothing and drove to safety. She, her two children, her husband and parents, and her dog Mila arrived at the shelter about an hour later, with little answer as to what this means for their community going forward. was.

A weather-related power outage affected more than 17,000 customers in Monterey County late Saturday, according to the governor’s Emergency Services Agency.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Saturday it was monitoring the situation in Pajaro.

“Our thoughts are with everyone affected and the state has been mobilized 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. Domestic brands such as Driscoll’s Strawberries and Martinelli’s are headquartered in the region.

In 1995, the Pajaro River embankment burst, submerging 2,500 acres (1,011 ha) of farmland and the community of Pajaro. Two people died and the floods cost him nearly $100 million. A state law passed last year advanced state funding for levee projects. Construction was scheduled to begin in 2024.

State Senator John Laird, who spearheaded the law and represents the region, said the project is now fully funded, but the timing was bad with this year’s rains.

“It’s tragic. It was nearing completion before the storm came,” he said.

This week’s storm marked the 10th atmospheric river in the state this winter. The storm brought heavy rain and snow to the state, helping to alleviate three years of drought conditions. Water levels in state reservoirs were noticeably low but now well above average for this time of year, and state officials are releasing water from dams to aid in flood control and make room for more rain. It looks like

Across the state on Saturday, Californians battled pouring rain and rising water levels in the aftermath of atmospheric rivers. In Tulare County, sheriffs ordered residents living near the Tule River to evacuate, and people near Poso Creek in Kern County were given evacuation warnings. Meteorologists from the National Weather Service have issued flood warnings and advisories, urging drivers to stay clear of flooded roads.

In San Francisco, an 85-foot (25.91-meter) tall eucalyptus tree fell on the Trocadero clubhouse early Saturday morning. His 1892 clubhouse, a historic San Francisco landmark, remained badly damaged, with part of the roof crushed and the interior flooded.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a tornado warning Saturday afternoon as a funnel cloud was spotted in the Jamestown area, the heart of California’s gold rush, and severe thunderstorms, hail and high winds blanketed the area at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. , later canceled. Another series of temporary tornado warnings was also issued in Fresno County, about 100 miles (160.93 km) south of Gold Country. A flash flood warning was issued in Tuolumne County late Saturday, flooding roads around Sonora and neighboring communities.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Newsom has declared a state of emergency in 34 counties in recent weeks, and the Biden administration approved the president’s disaster declaration for some counties on Friday morning. President Biden met with Newsom on Saturday and pledged federal help in California’s response to the emergency, according to the White House.

An atmospheric river known as the “Pineapple Express” brought warm subtropical humidity across the Pacific from near Hawaii, melting the bottom of the giant snowballs in California’s mountains.

Yet another atmospheric river is already forecast early next week. State climatologist Michael Anderson said it looks like he’s forming a third over the Pacific, and perhaps he’s forming a quarter.

Anderson said Friday that California appeared to be “entering its fourth year of drought” before a series of early winter storms. “We are in a very different state now,” he added.

The National Weather Service on Saturday predicted heavy rain and snow Monday through Wednesday, with significant flooding likely through the middle of the week on the state’s central coast, the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, and the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada. I have.

Heavy snow is expected to return to the Sierra and higher elevations by mid-week, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Officials reported about 32 inches (81 cm) of snow fell at the Mount Rose ski resort just outside of Reno, Nevada, by Saturday morning.


Dazio reports from Los Angeles.

https://ktla.com/news/ap-top-headlines/storm-breaches-california-rivers-levee-hundreds-evacuate/ Thousands evacuated as storm breaches California river embankment

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