SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fire crews rescued residents from a San Jose neighbourhood inundated by water from an overflowing creek Tuesday after earlier saving five people who were stranded by flooding at a homeless encampment along a creek in the city.
The rescues came after a series of heavy storms drenched already soggy Northern California.
The rescued residents had to be taken to dry land and rinsed off to prevent them from being sickened by floodwaters that had travelled through garbage, debris and over sewer lines, San Jose Fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said. Helicopter footage showed people being escorted from the neighbourhood on boats passing by submerged vehicles throughout the neighbourhood.
Firefighters were going door-to-door to alert residents because the city does not have sirens or another emergency warning system, San Jose spokesman David Vossbrink said.
“Anybody who is near the creek should be getting ready to leave,” he said.
In the San Joaquin Valley in California’s agricultural heartland, farmers used their tractors and other heavy equipment to help shore up an endangered levee along the San Joaquin River.
The rains were the latest produced by a series of storms generated by “atmospheric rivers” that dump massive quantities of Pacific Ocean water on California after carrying it through the air from as far away as Hawaii.
The rains have saturated the once-drought stricken region but have created chaos for residents hit hard by the storms.
The latest downpours swelled waterways to flood levels and left about half the state under flood, wind and snow advisories.
The storm system began to weaken Tuesday after dumping more than a half-inch of rain in the San Joaquin Valley, over an inch in San Francisco, and more than 5 inches in the mountains above Big Sur over the previous 24 hours, the National Weather Service reported.
Dry weather was expected to return to the region on Wednesday.
In San Jose, the fire department was called to Coyote Creek amid reports of as many as 40 people being stranded at the homeless encampment.
That number turned out to be inaccurate and everyone was located, fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said.
The conditions of the five people rescued were not immediately available.
In the San Joaquin Valley, a flash flood warning remained in effect following a levee break along the San Joaquin River that prompted an evacuation order for about 500 people living mainly in ranch and farmland areas near the small city of Manteca.
“When the water gets that high and more water is coming, there is just too much pressure and levees can break,” said Tim Daly, a spokesman with the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services.
Dino Warda of Manteca told KCRA-TV that some farmers took their tractors and other equipment to the levee to help shore it up.
In Monterey County, people living along a section of the Carmel River were told to leave, as were those in a neighbourhood of Salinas near Santa Rita Creek.
In Lake County, northwest of Sacramento, about 100 homes in two mobile home parks and nearby streets were evacuated when the nearby Clear Lake rose a foot above flood stage.
“It’s very serious,” county Sheriff Brian Martin said of the potential for flooding. “There’s going to be widespread property damage … our ground’s been saturated.”
No injuries were immediately reported.
The Carmel River, which has flooded several times in the past month, and the Salinas River were also expected to approach flood levels.
At the Don Pedro reservoir, which captures water from the Tuolumne River, operators opened a spillway for the first time in 20 years.
In the Sierra Nevada mountain range, part of one of the main routes to Lake Tahoe was in danger of collapsing after a roadway shoulder gave way following heavy storms, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Numerous mudslides have blocked the road for days at a time in recent weeks.
The water level continued to fall at Oroville Lake, where a damaged spillway of the nation’s largest dams raised major flood concern a week ago and prompted the temporary evacuation of 188,000 people in communities downstream from the lake.