San Jose storms still pose flood threat
Valley Water crews cleaning and removing debris from a waterway in Santa Clara County on Jan. 5, 2023. Photo courtesy of Valley Water.

    The atmospheric river storm is reaching its end, but more rain is on the way. This means the threat of flooding is real for hundreds of homes in San Jose.

    San Jose saw one of the highest rainfalls in the recent storm from Sunday to Monday, with close to an inch of rain falling overnight, according to the National Weather Service. It could see similar levels of rain for the rest of the week.

    Meteorologist Jeff Lorber said some days may see minimal rain, but the next two weeks will be wet. While San Jose was less impacted by the atmospheric river storm compared to the rest of the region, upcoming thunderstorms may not have the same mercy. They can bring heavy rain in one particular area, Lorber said.

    “These showers or potential thunderstorms could pop up anywhere, and it could drop heavy rain over a pretty localized area that could create flooding problems on the highways and urban areas where there’s poor drainage,” Lorber told San Jose Spotlight. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some localized flooding tomorrow and some impacts to the commute.”

    The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch, in effect through 4 p.m. Tuesday. There’s also a flood warning in effect until just after midnight specific to the Guadalupe River above Almaden Expressway, where minor to moderate flooding is expected. There is also a wind advisory in place from 10 p.m. tonight through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

    Valley Water spokesperson Matt Keller said consistent rain over the last two weeks has filled up local creeks and rivers, leading to minimal flooding throughout several streets and waterways. Flooding hasn’t seriously impacted any homes or roads, but officials are on high alert and residents should be too, Keller said.

    Areas of concern in San Jose are Ross Creek and Cherry Avenue; Upper Penitencia neighborhoods near Berryessa Road and Mabury and King roads; and Canoas Creek at Santa Teresa Boulevard and the Nightingale neighborhood. The biggest area of concern is West Alma Avenue near Guadalupe River, Keller said.

    “We’re not taking the foot off the gas pedal when it comes to being prepared for the possibility of flooding in that area,” Keller told San José Spotlight. “We do have heavy machinery in the area if anything blocks the river or (if) there are any issues there, we can jump in right away and take care of it.”

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan announced a state of emergency last week and evacuation orders for homeless residents living near the water. In an update on Monday, he said the city has averted the worst, but is still prepared for potential flooding.

    “Water levels are high and water is moving very quickly, and we will likely see rain in the days ahead,” Mahan said. “So (the state of emergency and evacuation order along waterways) remains in effect.”

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan answers questions about the city’s storm plans on Jan. 9. Screenshot.

    Mahan said the most impacted residents will be the homeless living near the creeks. VTA is helping shuttle people to warming centers at the Roosevelt Community Center, Seven Trees Community Center and the West Valley Branch Library.

    “We currently have 99 residents and eight dogs at the Seven Trees Community Center,” Mahan said. “As soon as we reach 110 people, we will then move to open the Camden Community Center.”

    Residents in South County should also be on alert, Keller said. Highway 101 near the South 10th Street exit in Gilroy is expected to flood on Monday. Santa Clara County also issued an evacuation warning for residents near the Uvas Reservoir and Pacheco Pass River Basin. Another evacuation warning has been issued for the area near Highway 101 and Bolsa Road.

    Keller said even if Santa Clara County doesn’t see heavy rain, it doesn’t mean it won’t see any flooding. Rain in the mountains can impact waterways that results in flooding in the valley.

    “You never know until it’s over where you had the greatest impacts and the greatest damage, because you cannot always predict the weather,” Keller said. “When Mother Nature decides to do something, Mother Nature is going to do it. As much as you can prepare for things, you can’t control it all, which is why we have been in emergency mode for the last several days.”

    Valley Water has distributed more than 100,000 sandbags, Keller said, and is encouraging all residents in special flood hazard zones to pick some up if they haven’t yet. The agency is filling about 11,000 sandbags a day.

    Teresa Alvarado, PG&E vice president for the South Bay and Central Coast region, said this is the largest response the company has assembled for a winter storm event, with more than 4,100 workers dedicated to storm response.

    “We’ve restored power to more than 1.5 million customers impacted by the heavy rain, wind and snow throughout the PG&E service area,” Alvarado said. “Here in our San Jose division, which includes Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Gilroy, there have been 76,011 customers who have experienced a power outage since New Year’s Eve. We’ve restored 66,470 customers, or more than 87% of them, within six hours.”

    Alvarado said PG&E is ready to de-energize circuits near flood areas as a safety precaution. She also warned residents from walking in areas where power lines have fallen.

    Residents are encouraged to report fallen power lines to 911, then PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. To see which areas are impacted by outages visit pge.com/outages.

    To sign up for Santa Clara County’s emergency alert system, click here. To sign up for Valley Water’s alert system, click here.

    Residents can find free sandbags here. Residents can also report blockages in waterways and spills by calling Valley Water’s watershed hotline at 408-630-2378 or San Jose’s 311 line.

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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