Some 14 000 residents of San Jose, a large city in California's Bay Area, are under mandatory evacuation orders with another 36 000 in the recommended evacuation area after Coyote Creek, Santa Clara County's longest, overflowed in what officials are calling the worst flooding the city has seen in 100 years.
The situation was developing for weeks but the historic flooding in the region worsened on February 21 when the creek crested at a record 4.14 m (13.6 feet), nearly 1.21 (4 feet) above flood stage. The previous high was recorded in 1922, when the creek crested at 3.90 m (12.8 feet), and before that in 1917, when it reached 3.71 m (12.2 feet).
For the first time since 2006, heavy rain caused Anderson Reservoir upstream to overflow and push the creek farther out of its banks. It became full Saturday morning, February 18, but it wasn’t until heavy rains on Sunday and Monday that water began flowing over its wall and into Coyote Creek. The reservoir had been releasing as much water as possible through its main outlet since January 9.
By Wednesday morning, February 22, officials said the creek was stable and no longer rising, but the city still faced heavy flooding and 'was far out of the woods,' Mayor Sam Liccardo said, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. He added the floodwaters are contaminated with fuel, oil and possible sewage.
The Emergency Operations Center says 36 000 people in San Jose are in the recommended area for evacuations and 14 000 in the mandatory evacuation area.
The mandatory evacuation zone largely encompasses a large swath of central San Jose, extending just east of San Jose State University and 3.2 km (2 miles) east of Mineta San Jose International Airport. At its widest point, the mandatory evacuation area covers a zone roughly two miles long and one mile wide.
Video courtesy CBS SF Bay Area
Liccardo said evacuation orders will continue through Wednesday but there is no estimate when they will be lifted. He added some of the event was "foreseeable" and admits the city will do things differently in the future.
“There is no question that we’ll need to do things differently next time, but assessing what those things are is going to require us to understand better what happened that led to this,” he said.
Residents are urged not to return to their homes because of major safety concerns.
In total, there are 400 people who have been rescued by boat, but there were no significant injuries.
City spokesman said at least 40 homes suffered flood damage.
Featured image: Flooding in San Jose, California - February 2017. Credit: CBS SF Bay Area