It finally stopped raining in Northern California this week, but that doesn’t mean state residents were safe from rising flood water threatening their homes and businesses.
Residents in the northern part of the state were ordered to evacuate by the thousands as dam officials released a massive flood of water downstream to prevent fatal collapses.
Some 50,000 San Jose residents were urged to evacuate Wednesday as officials released water threatening to overflow the Anderson Dam, which is prone to earthquake damage.
Dam officials didn’t expect the rising waters to threaten nearby residents when they flooded nearby Coyote Creek, but their stream flow model turned out to be incorrect and a three-foot high wave topped a San Jose levee.
Emergency crews rescued 246 residents trapped in their homes and 14,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders while another 36,000 are under a recommended evacuation.
Firefighters went door-to-door to explain the evacuation order to residents because the town lacks sirens or other outdoor warning systems. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo took responsibility for failing to evacuate residents before the flooding occurred, according to the Weather Channel.
“If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of their home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, that’s a failure.”
The Anderson Dam is restricted to 68 percent of capacity because it’s susceptible to collapse from a 7.25-magnitude earthquake. Officials have been releasing water from an outlet pipe, but continuing rainfall has brought more water in than can be released.
South of San Francisco the U.S. 101 was temporarily closed Wednesday after flood waters covered the lanes in both directions.
Meanwhile, in the Central Valley, Modesto residents were bracing for flash floods as floodwaters released from the Don Pedro Dam into the Tuolumne River was expected to stress local levees causing possible breaks.
Some 2,000 residents of remote Spring Valley were stranded when one entrance road was washed away and another buried in mudslides; officials hope to use a temporary bridge to reopen the town.
In Monterey County, residents along the Carmel River were ordered to evacuate after water was released from Bass Lake.
In Oroville, where some 200,000 residents were evacuated last week, officials report the reservoir to be at 81 percent with room for incoming runoff.
“This is a significant storm, and it’s a strong atmospheric river storm. We are seeing a lot of runoff whenever these storms come.”
The damaging winter storms have caused millions in damages to California’s aging highway system, washed away bridges, and covered train tracks with mudslides, Union Pacific railroad spokesman Justin Jacobs told the USA Today.
“Right now the big thing is that we are able to reroute trains around the areas that are out of service. We have delays, but we are looking to get all the lines open as soon as possible. Safety first.”
The winter storms have saturated a state suffering that was suffering through a historic drought and wreaked havoc on residents unused to heavy rainfall.
Although the sun has come out, the state still isn’t safe from flooding. The National Weather Service is warning Northern California residents their creeks and rivers will continue to run near flood levels through the end of the week.
Hopefully, the brief respite will last long enough for dam officials throughout the state to get a handle on flood control and allow evacuated residents to return to their homes. More rainfall is expected Saturday.
[Featured Image by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images].