Flooding in San Jose Prompts Evacuations, Rescue Missions

UPDATE, Feb. 22: San Jose issued mandatory evacuation orders in the early morning hours to more than 14,000 residents who live in the vicinity of Coyote Creek. Parts of Highway 101 were closed due to flooding as people flocked to hotels, emergency shelters or homes of friends and family to evade the rising waters. 

According to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Anderson Dam spillway discharge peaked during the day Tuesday, but flows are still heavy into Coyote Creek. The East Williams Street gauge peaked later in the day Tuesday, but the waters are now receding very slowly. Coyote Creek at Highway 237 began receding just after midnight and Highway 101 was re-opened this morning. The water district cautioned against driving through flooded waters. 

“If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground. A foot of water will cause many vehicles to float,” the district wrote in an email. “Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups.”

Sign up for emergency alerts at www.SCCgov.org. The American Red Cross is helping people who have been forced out of their homes. To find out how to support those efforts, call 800.733.2767 or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

After days of storms dumped record rainfall throughout Northern California, the Anderson Reservoir filled to the brim Monday and sent water roaring down the concrete spillway and into Coyote Creek. The rising waters prompted daring rescues and forced evacuations of homes, encampments and office buildings in parts of the South Bay.

San Jose declared a “local emergency” Tuesday as rivers surged and flooded neighborhoods, stretches of freeway, homeless settlements and Happy Hollow Zoo. To see a live map of storm-related incidents throughout Santa Clara County, click here. For the latest updates on emergency closures of county-maintained roads, click here.

(Photo by Chris Smead, via Friends of San Jose Firefighters)

(Photo by Chris Smead, via Friends of San Jose Firefighters)

More than 100 people who live around Senter Road and Phelan Avenue had to leave their homes after the muddy waters submerged their cars and rose halfway up their front doors. Rescue boats went from house to house in the Nordale community, picking up people who were trapped in their homes.

Footage from news helicopters Tuesday showed brown deluge coursing through city streets, leaving people and animals stranded—including several horses trapped behind fences in three feet of water.

By late afternoon Tuesday, Coyote Creek had flooded houses throughout downtown along Williams and Santa Clara streets. Locals snapped photographs showing Williams Street Park entirely underwater, with cars submerged just about to the top of their tires.

Williams Street Park on Tuesday, Feb. 21. (Photo by Ted Smith, via Facebook)

Williams Street Park on Tuesday, Feb. 21. (Photo by Ted Smith, via Facebook)

San Jose police also ordered more than 300 county Social Services Agency (SSA) employees to evacuate their offices on Senter Road as they filled with water. Those SSA offices will remain closed until further notice. For the time being, clients can still apply for services online at www.MyBenefitsCalWIN.org. For emergency help with CalFresh or other free food resources, call 800.984.3663.

For help with other services handled by the SSA, clients can visit the following locations: 1330 Middlefield Road in Mountain View, 379 Tompkins Ct. in Gilroy, 650 S. Bascom Ave. in San Jose or 880 Ridder Park Drive in San Jose. In addition, The Department of Aging and Adult Services will continue providing services at 333 W. Julian St. in San Jose until otherwise noted.

Overflow from the Guadalupe River flooded a parking garage Monday night at Mineta San Jose International Airport, but was pumped out by the next morning.

(Photo by Craig Allyn Rose)

(Photo by Craig Allyn Rose, via Friends of San Jose Firefighteres)

San Jose, home to one of the nation’s largest populations of unsheltered homeless people, dispatched rescue teams on boats and a helicopter to creekside homeless camps overwhelmed by the swollen waterways.

Firefighters rescued several of homeless people stranded along Coyote Creek by the Los Lagos Golf Course on Tuesday morning, as dozens of others climbed trees and scrambled up the riverbanks to escape the rushing waters.

Outreach workers have been visiting homeless encampments throughout San Jose to spread word about the floods and where people can find emergency shelter—at James Lick High School, 57 N. White Road.

The city is also running temporary evacuation shelters at the Roosevelt, Shirakawa and Mayfair community centers. Click here for the latest update on the city’s emergency weather alert landing page. To find out if your house is in a flood zone, click here.

By 5pm Tuesday, the city issued an emergency notice to areas prone to the next wave of flooding, including neighborhoods from Capitol Expressway to Highway 237. About 100 city staffers fanned out through the affected areas to distribute leaflets warning people that they may have to evacuate as the Anderson Dan reservoir continues to spill over and the river waters continue to ascend through late Wednesday morning.

(Photo by Tam Nguyen)

(Photo by Tam Nguyen)

The Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing declared an inclement weather episode, which means an additional 292 shelters beds will be made available in various locations through Saturday morning. Sikh Gurdwara San Jose announced that it would open its doors and offer hot food to anyone displaced by the flooding.

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has been transporting people for evacuations, which may lead to some service disruptions. Other VTA bus lines were rerouted to avoid flood zones and road closures.

As people gathered their belongings and fled their homes Tuesday, emergency responders hosed down anyone who came in contact with the floodwater, which is coursing with gasoline, sewage, oil, chemicals and various other contaminants.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has set up six sites for people to pick up sandbags, and the agency noted that there are 18 additional stations managed by local cities. One of those sites, however, has been closed because of the flooding. The closest alternatives to the blocked-off Senter Road and Phelan Avenue sandbag station are off of Mabury Avenue and at the Winfield Boulevard Warehouse.

The American Red Cross put out a call for volunteers who want to help evacuate buildings and relocate people throughout the city. The nonprofit’s South Bay office is located at 2731 N. First St., in San Jose. The Red Cross phone number is 877.727.6771.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

21 Comments

  1. You would think after 90 plus yrs the district and a bit the city would stop building right next to creeks floodplain?
    but we all know the salaries, payouts and lawsuits cost the district millions in tax $ are, your tax dollars. Funny clean safe creeks gets 40 million and they use volunteers to clean the crk, with all their new trucks, cranes etc, the flooding, mess and encampments would be less, but guess what you will be paying them billions as the dams fall apart and if they ever do a real audit, not just line items, you will see the waste, and wonder why this did not go to their mission> whatever happened….http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2015/09/23/water-district-chair-calls-for-da-to-investigate-conflicts-of-interest-alleged-improper-billing/

  2. > Outreach workers have been visiting homeless encampments throughout San Jose to spread word about the floods and where people can find emergency shelter—at James Lick High School, 57 N. White Road.

    Why not put the emergency shelters for homeless people in Hollywood, Malibu, Newport Beach, or in Dianne Feinstein’s neighborhood in San Francisco.

    And, after relocating the homeless people, put concertina wire and guard dogs around the “encampments” so that they don’t return.

    The “homeless people” (i.e. paleolithic hunter-gatherers) are turning parks, golf-courses, and “open spaces” into “tribal lands” which will inevitably result in tribal warfare between nomadic warrior bands. Prepare to re-experience the collapse of civilization and the return of the Huns, Vandals, and Visigoths.

  3. Despite all the flooding the perc ponds along Penitencia Creek are all dry, you would think this might be a good time to replenish our aquifers.Maybe we should wait till next summer when Hetchy Hetchy has it on sale.

    We watched the creek breach the bank at Mayberry and Education Park yesterday, flooding the field on the north side of the road.Sandbags lined the sidewalk keeping the water from flooding the street.Lots of logs, branches and homeless debris floating across the field and back into the creek at the west end, just like it has done
    twice since 1997 in this location. I think it’s time they cleaned up this creek and the others too.

  4. very sad @valleywater they were not even ready and they have 4 emergency op centers, but even they said it got us, the levee was most likely done in the 30-40s like most levees .. check your prop tax bill to count your loss

  5. Well the mayor who spends most of his time trying to criminalize our city in defiance of federal law was no where to be found during this epic mini-disaster. Choosing instead to lounge around City Hall while people had to be boated out of their homes without a peep coming from him. This guy has to be the biggest clown in San Jose history. I can’t believe that San Jose actually pays this moron a salary.

      • I’m certain that you meant “anti-ILLEGAL immigrant remarks”, didn’t you? There is a difference, you know. Or maybe you don’t.

      • Since IRONBOB referenced the mayor’s flouting of federal law, exactly how did you, LJW, conclude it to be an anti-immigrant remark? Are you under the mistaken belief that there is a federal campaign against all immigrants, or is it the case that you are too repugnant a human being to honestly identify the group you champion as illegal immigrants?

  6. from SJMN “If this amount of runoff hasn’t been seen in many decades then the planners and hydrologists would have a hard time figuring out where the flood prone areas along the rivers and streams would be vulnerable to overflow and flooding. I didn’t hear one mention of Santa Clara Valley Water District in this story. It’s their job to clean the creeks and remove debris every year. A lot of ‘water tax’ money is spent every year to do so. Where was the Murky News reporter who is supposed to know this and why didn’t the reporter ask some questions and get some response from the SCVWD spokesperson? The District was surely watching the creek levels with their remote monitoring SCADA system. They are responsible for getting the raw creek level information out to the City of San Jose and all other concerned agencies.”
    right the have gauges on a system SCADA that transmits water level at bridges etc, but who was monitoring that?

  7. This flooding should never have gotten out of control. But the tax money that should have been used to maintain our city’s infrastructure has been diverted to endless liberal causes, which do nothing to run the city efficiently.

    I would love to get the mayor to publicly answer some questions.

    My first question:

    Where in his list of priorities is city maintenance? Be specific, Mayor. Give us a number. It certainly isn’t where it should be: at #1 or #2. Obviously, it’s way below other ’causes’.

    This disaster is a direct result of disregarding city maintenance. It’s no different than ignoring the pot holes that are multiplying like rabbits in our streets, or wasting tax money on stupid bicycle paths that not 2% of the population uses, or kissing up to developers while disregarding the resulting traffic mess.

    Beginning with Mayor Janet G. Hayes, San Jose has gone straight downhill. The focus has drifted away from maintaining a well run city, where our tax money benefits all residents more or less equally.

    In the fifty years I’ve lived here I’ve seen the priorities get upended, to where special interest groups are first in line—and city maintenance is given a band-aid only after disasters like this one. And the problem is accelerating.

    Hmm-m, I wonder what all those mayors have in common …?

  8. > or wasting tax money on stupid bicycle paths that not 2% of the population uses,

    The stupid bicycle paths are also VERY dangerous and the 2% of the population that uses them are prime candidates for Darwin awards.

    Nature has a way of keeping itself in balance.

  9. On the day the flood waters arrived, Mayor Liccardo was interviewed on camera at the evacuation scene, where he very pointedly blamed the water rescue on the fire department and, if I remember correctly, the office of emergency services. I was stunned to hear a supposedly responsible official utter so reckless a snap judgment about flood levels produced by so many hard-to-predict factors. He might as well have plastered “Sue Us” signs on the city’s rescue rafts.

    Equally surprising has been the media’s apparent willingness to bury that interview, allowing San Jose’s First Punk to backpedal away from his disgraceful and irresponsible conduct. Here is his revised position, one that can be readily found on media websites.

    “As I sit here today and look at a neighborhood that is completely inundated with water where we have fire crews doing whatever they can to get people out, there’s no question in my mind there was a failure of some kind,” he said. “We’ll have plenty of time for ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ in the days ahead.”

    I can only hope that a firehouse DVR recorded that first interview, because when it comes to holding anointed politicians accountable, we sure can’t count on the media.

  10. I cought a hint of things to come relating to what’s next for flood victims. The comment was “Some people will never be allowed to return to their homes”.

    No permits to rebuild?

    I’m not sure if this was a just a reporter’s flippant remark, or a freudian slip be someone in the know in city hall, this
    brings back the vision of Alviso in the 1980’s and the city,s current tear to replace house’s and neighborhoods with high density tenement housing for the workers that are coming.

    A flood is a horrible thing to waste!

  11. the city and @scvwd meet each yr to work out sharing, info, clean up, cost etc, etc, problem is the 2.47am email from scvwd was disregarded by scvwd who knew this was too much water, and the city both who did nothing, i hope they sue the sxxx out of the city, scvwd clean the slate, get directors and staff that want to do something for the ppl. not build new board rooms for 3 million which they approved during drought last yr? investigation? here is overhead footage of william st park shame even a ex director got hit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?… Maybe time to stop pointing fingers and take blame @scvwd and city of san jose both have EOC million dollar ones but nothing happens, as Dick Santos said we know it floods there..

  12. If this amount of runoff hasn’t been seen in many decades then the planners and hydrologists would have a hard time figuring out where the flood prone areas along the rivers and streams would be vulnerable to overflow and flooding. I didn’t hear one mention of Santa Clara Valley Water District in this story. It’s their job to clean the creeks and remove debris every year. A lot of ‘water tax’ money is spent every year to do so. Where was the Murky News reporter who is supposed to know this and why didn’t the reporter ask some questions and get some response from the SCVWD spokesperson? The District was surely watching the creek levels with their remote monitoring SCADA system. They are responsible for getting the raw creek level information out to the City of San Jose and all other concerned agencies. frm sjmn”

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