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.”
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).”
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.