By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) – Murky, waist-high floodwaters swamped neighborhoods along a rain-swollen creek in the northern California city of San Jose on Tuesday, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders or advisories for more than 1,000 homes, city officials said.
The state’s third-largest city, a hub of the high-tech Silicon Valley corridor south of San Francisco, has about 1 million residents and declared an emergency as Coyote Creek overflowed its banks from days of heavy showers.
The trash-strewn floodwaters inundated whole city blocks, submerging parked cars and lapping at the walls of apartments and townhouses, as firefighters in inflatable boats ferried stranded residents to dry ground.
About 300 homes were ordered evacuated in low-lying Rock Springs, and city officials urged residents of roughly 200 dwellings in the Williams Street neighborhood downstream to leave their homes, city spokesman David Vossbrink said.
After dark, fire department crews began going door to door advising residents of three creek-side mobile home parks, consisting of about 600 trailers, to move to higher ground, Vossbrink said, adding that the stream was continuing to rise.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that municipal officials should have moved more quickly in evacuating the Rock Springs area.
“As I sit here today and I look out at a neighborhood that’s completely inundated with water … there’s no question in my mind there was a failure of some kind,” he said.
City officials had no reports of injuries, deaths or people missing, said Vossbrink, who estimated at least 300 homes were damaged by flooding.
The San Jose Fire Department advised a decontamination cleansing for those immersed in floodwaters to get rid of hazardous pollutants.
The latest series of downpours that swept northern California on Sunday and Monday weakened on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Meteorologists said the storms were spawned by an “atmospheric river” bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean.
Last week a string of storms triggered a crisis near the Lake Oroville Dam about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of San Francisco, where damage to two spillways prompted an evacuation of more than 100,000 people downstream.
California is slowly recovering from five years of drought thanks to several months of unusually wet weather.
At least 3 inches (8 cm) of rain fell in many areas, though some received far more, such as the sparsely populated Big Sur region and outside the city of Santa Rosa, which got more than 8 inches (20 cm), the weather officials said.
The next heavy storm is expected to hit Northern California this weekend, they added.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and Writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Clarence Fernandez)