SAN JOSE—The most recent winter storm has left parts of San Jose underwater, forcing over 50,000 residents living near swollen creeks to evacuate their homes.
On Tuesday, February 21, low-lying areas near Coyote Creek experienced record flooding. Emergency crews in rescue boats had to save 246 residents from the rising waters, officials said. A homeless encampment on San Jose’s Los Lagos Golf Course, near Coyote Creek, left five people stranded before being rescued.
“This is the worst flooding and water-rescue situation that I personally have participated in,” said San Jose Fire Department Captain Mitch Matlow. During a press conference, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that municipal officials should have been more prepared for the flooding.
“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,” said Liccardo.
Recent heavy rains in California are partly due to atmospheric rivers, which have been responsible for up to 65 percent of the West Coast’s extreme weather. Atmospheric rivers are tendrils of moisture that travel up from the tropics. A single atmospheric river can contain more water than the Mississippi River at its mouth. Recent research by Duane Waliser has drawn a correlation between atmospheric river storms and severe winds.
All but one of California’s reservoirs are at or above their historic average levels. According to weather officials, the next big storm is expected to hit Northern California this weekend.