New Emails Show Water District Limited Flow of Information to City Days before San Jose Flood

Newly released communications between the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the City of San Jose reveal that both sides were aware of the flooding danger from an upcoming storm and were exchanging information until water district management stepped in and restricted the communication.

Nearly two weeks before San Jose neighborhoods flooded, a city engineer asked the water district about rising creek levels. “Good morning” Casey Hirasaki, an engineer who works for the city of San Jose, wrote on Thursday, Feb. 9. “There was mention around office yesterday that Coyote Creek was running high, near top of bank, and that there was also a plan to release from Anderson Dam.”

The following Tuesday, a week before the flood, Hirasaki again emailed counterpart at the district, saying, “We were on a conference call this morning with City departments and SCVWD discussing rain forecast and possible Anderson Dam spill later this week. We have been asked to create a map of City hot-spots as well as the Coyote Creek locations you identified.”

On Thursday morning, Water District Associate Civil Engineer Jack Xu warned San Jose’s Shelley Guo that “there is a big one coming next week… with the major events occurring Monday/Tuesday. If that hits as predicted we might be in big trouble.”

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Xu also sent over some maps that correctly predicted the Rock Springs flooding though failed to highlight the overflow that besieged the Olinder neighborhood on the East Side and parts of Naglee Park.

“Jack: Wow, the map is great, thank you!” Hirasaki emailed back.

The lovefest was short lived. On Fri., Feb 17, Xu wrote an apologetic message saying he had to cut off communication. “So unfortunately we got some pushback from our management about us communicating directly to you guys at our levels and the District having different outlets of information for the forecasts, so I was told to relay information through the appropriate channels (sorry).”

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The rains hit on Monday and Tuesday, and as predicted, Rock Springs flooded. Both the city and the water district knew that would be the outcome and had been discussing emergency preparations in the week leading up to the $100 million disaster.

Only the residents whose homes were flooded were left out of the loop until the water approached their doorsteps.

9 Comments

  1. THE DISTRICT WILL NEVER CHANGE ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS, TAX MORE TAX READ THE AUDIT 2012 https://pgoeltz.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/diversityaudit2012.pdf IT EXPLAINS THE DISTRICT managers and why employees distrust them. which is why there is no function at the top. ask why a 3rd boardroom was approved. ask for that DA audit, open the books. If you watched the meeting last nite, pretty much talk talk talk, oh we are humble. the chair says.

  2. dont think your EOC manager has skills either from his first job at scvwd or from security where they put him when his first job vanished, then the eoc person went and yes the security person they said can learn how to interpret floods and warn city…..

  3. If I the layman could see by the news reports that Anderson was about to overflow the spillway a week before, as
    Oraville was already, what were the fender heads at the water district and city hall doing? I suspect this was a clever
    new way to flood out a section of town for financial gain. Urban Renewal by Flood, URF!

  4. The actions of water district managers in ordering district personnel to stand down instead of warning residents, if true, constitute reckless disregard for the health and safety of thousands of SJ residents. It’s time to stop talking. Fix the problem caused by the flood, but also fix the blame for what should have been a preventable disaster. Get subpoenas out before the records disappear and commence a full investigation. The investigation should probably not be handled by Mr. Rosen’s Office, as its leadership is tied too closely to the culprits. I’m sure that as I write this, all relevant parties are coordinating their stories to present a united front. These kinds of people cover each other’s’ butts. If the implications in the emails in this story are found to be facts, people need to go to jail and be removed for their positions.

    It took several years of Civil Grand Jury findings and the Mercury News expose to bring down those responsible for the misfeasance and malfeasance of the Office of the Public Guardian, which was laid at the doorstep of just one or two top managers; but no-one went to jail, as should have occurred. We should not let that happen again.

  5. If Pulcrano (the CEO) is writing this stuff, they must really think they have something?

    So far seems like an under-resourced district with a lot of moving part. After the fact, easy to draw lines of causation and say the project that could have prevented the floods didn’t happen bc of higher ups had relationships that could benefit them if they did other projects and/or say lower level employees were shut down by higher ups but so far I think pushing back with the “don’t attribute to malice hat can be assigned to stupidly” is the most harsh critique of the water districts performene that the facts as we know them will support.

  6. Many of you have contacted my office to express concerns with the direction of our country/GOVT/SCVWD, so I will host a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 12, to hear directly from you. All are welcome to attend, and it will take place at the Mount Pleasant High School Theater from 1 pm – 2:30 pm.
    Space is limited, so let me know if you can join by completing this short RSVP form.
    I look forward to providing a Congressional update on immigration-specific policies, answering your questions, and sharing my views.
    San Jose Town Hall Meeting
    March 12, 1 pm – 2:30 pm
    Mount Pleasant High School Theater
    1750 South White Rd, San Jose, CA 95127
    Please contact my office at (408) 271-8700 if you have any questions about the town hall meeting.
    ZOE LOVES THE WATER DISTRICT, HER YARD MAYBE GOT HIT BY FLOODING, BUT SHOW UP…..

  7. Absolute negligence and reckless disregard for public health and safety, these SCVWD miscreants should be incarcerated and denied their lucrative paychecks and pensions. Outrageous. Subpoena and confiscate the records before they disappear..

  8. The saddest part is that the only things being offered is sympathy and excuses. I have yet to see anyone sincerely show any hint of remorse for having not done better regardless of blame. However their annoyance at having this PR disaster is clear for all to see.

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