Water floods over a walkway under a bridge.
Heavy rains flooded encampments near the Guadalupe River in San Jose on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, forcing homeless residents to evacuate. Photo courtesy of Scott Largent.

Heavy rain and powerful wind raged through San Jose over the weekend, affecting the most vulnerable communities. Luckily, the worst of the weather is behind us, officials say.

The recent atmospheric river storm resulted in broken trees that blocked roads, fell on homes and damaged cars. Approximately 700,000 people lost power throughout the Bay Area, and homeless residents living near San Jose’s Guadalupe River were forced to evacuate.

Mayor Matt Mahan declared a state of emergency Saturday evening in order to enforce evacuation orders for people living in flood hotspots.

“San Jose had first responders and teams at City Hall who were out morning and night making sure our housed and homeless neighbors were safe from the storm,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “We still have far too many neighbors without power and some property damage to contend with, but thanks to proper preparation and communication, no lives were lost.”

Dalton Behringer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said San Jose saw 1.5 to 2 inches of rain in the valley, while areas near and in the Santa Cruz mountains saw 4 to 5 inches of rain — much less than last year’s storms. What made this storm unique, however, was the incredibly powerful winds with gusts up to 80 miles per hour in some spots.

“We saw something similar (last year), but not to this magnitude,” Behringer told San José Spotlight. “Thankfully (there was) no major flooding or anything like we saw last year… But we’re seeing countless accounts of trees and power lines down.”

The storm was less severe on the region’s homeless residents compared to last year, but people still struggled. Power outages hit homeless shelters, including the SureStay Motel, where formerly homeless seniors live. As of Monday afternoon, SureStay has been without power since 9 a.m. Sunday, advocate Shaunn Cartwright said. Residents dependent on electricity for oxygen, CPAP machines or nebulizers have been left to fend for themselves.

San Jose police officers patrolled areas around the Guadalupe River and Penitencia Creek to encourage evacuation and let unhoused residents know about free rides to an overnight warming shelter at Roosevelt Community Center.

“Participation at the Roosevelt overnight warming center peaked at 72 on Sunday night. We had 56 participants (there) on Saturday night,” Jeff Scott, spokesman for the city’s housing department, told San José Spotlight.

San Jose police officers drove around the Guadalupe River to inform homeless residents about evacuation orders. Photo courtesy of Scott Largent.

The San Jose Fire Department conducted two water rescues on Sunday. After receiving a report of a vehicle in the Guadalupe River near Highway 87 and Taylor Street, firefighters went into the water and used a drone to find three people who were able to get out of the car. Firefighters used an inflatable rescue boat to bring the three individuals to shore.

Near Coleman Avenue and Autumn Parkway, firefighters also used an inflatable boat to rescue four people, three medium-sized adult dogs and nine newborn puppies, according to the city.

Homeless advocate Scott Largent said first responders did a great job at the scene. Police used loudspeakers to provide information in English and Spanish to homeless residents. Still, he wishes there were more proactive measures to help secure tarps and tents of unhoused residents that blew away in the wind.

“If the city prepped more for it, it would keep more people out of the hospital, more people warm and keep their stuff more together,” Largent told San José Spotlight. “They knew these winds were coming so I’m just surprised they didn’t just go out there and just help people kind of batten down the hatches on their (makeshift shelters).”

Todd Langton, executive director for Agape Silicon Valley, said the city should’ve been more proactive in general. He said moving people into the overnight warming centers provides a unique opportunity to reach homeless people who otherwise may not come in contact with city officials.

“It’s just a Band-Aid to give them a couple of nights at the shelter and most of the shelters are full anyway,” Langton told San José Spotlight. “So let’s use this as an opportunity to get them on track for housing and back to a functional living situation.”

The Roosevelt Community Center will serve as an overnight warming center until Tuesday morning, as the weather is expected to calm down.

Behringer said there will be another round of light rainfall on Wednesday, which should amount to less than half an inch of rain.

“The big thing is just to remain cautious the next couple of days. Power lines and trees are going to remain weak and just because something hasn’t fallen already doesn’t mean it’s not weekend and may fall,” Behringer said. “But this weekend looks nice so it’ll be a good time to clean up and relax and then hopefully enjoy some nicer weather.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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