Flooding in San Jose Prompts Evacuations, Rescue Missions

The "atmospheric river" walloping California with drenching rains and gale-force winds prompted daring water rescues Tuesday and kept thousands of residents from flooded or threatened homes. Another 36,000 have been recommended by authorities to flee.

TV news reports showed two people holed up inside a tent on the water as rescue personnel looked on, NBC reported.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that authorities had not anticipated the magnitude of the disaster and should have acted more quickly in ordering the evacuation.

Almost 100 more were rescued in overnight operations, according to local media.

Officials are concerned the murky water could be contaminated by oil and gas leaks from trapped vehicles, household chemicals that may have leaked into the floodwater and even overflowing sewage lines.

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

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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. Some areas flooded for the first time in many years, he said.

On Friday, a powerful Pacific storm blew into Southern and Central California with wind-driven heavy rains that downed power lines and electrocuted a man and killed a motorist in a submerged vehicle.

The Coyote Creek swelled after an area reservoir overflowed.

"Although the rain has largely stopped, flooding is continuing along Coyote Creek as reservoirs continue to spill and creek flow is extremely high", said Cheryl Wessling, a spokeswoman for the city's Emergency Operations Center, in an email early Wednesday. Officials said they expected water levels to start receding around midnight, when they plan to start checking homes, buildings and city facilities for damage.

Several schools were affected by the flooding including San Jose and Cristo Rey high schools. Red Cross officials say they'll be here as long as they are needed and will work with the city and county to help the evacuees.

Coyote Creek crested at a record-breaking 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) on Tuesday evening, said National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin.

  • Sidney Guerrero