Flooding problems mount as new storm hits California – Boston News, Weather, Sports
WATSONVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Crews rushed to repair one dike breach on a storm-swollen river on California’s central coast than yet another atmospheric flow came Monday with the potential to swamp the state’s inundated farmlands and farming communities.
The first dam breach of the Pajaro River has grown to at least 120 meters since it failed late Friday, officials said. More than 8,500 people had to be evacuated and about 50 people had to be rescued when the water rose that night.
However, some stayed behind in Pajaro, an unincorporated community known for its strawberry harvest and now mostly flooded. The predominantly Hispanic farmworker community there is already struggling to find food with so many roads and businesses closed after the storm.
“Some people have nowhere to go, and maybe that’s why there are still people around,” resident Jorbelit Rincon said Monday. “Pretty much they don’t know where to go and don’t have the money to fend for themselves.”
A second breach opened another 100 feet (30.48 meters) of the levee closer to the Pacific coast and provided a “relief valve” to allow flood waters to recede near the river’s mouth, officials said during a news conference on Monday.
Constructed in the late 1940s to protect against flooding, the dam has been a known hazard for decades and ruptured several times in the 1990s. Emergency repairs to a section of the berm were made in January. A $400 million revamp is set to begin in the next few years.
Forecasters warned of more flooding, wind damage and possible power outages from new atmospheric flow, which made landfall Monday night in northern and central parts of the state and is expected to move south over several days. California was beaten up by 10 atmospheric fluxesthese are long, narrow plumes of moisture that turn into rain and snow when they hit land.
Along the Southern California coast, evacuation orders were due to go into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Barbara County for several areas burned by wildfires in recent years. Burnt ground can repel water, increasing the risk of flash floods and debris flows like fallen trees, according to the National Weather Service.
Water from the latest storm is likely to overflow the Pajaro River dam — but crews were working to make sure the breach didn’t get any bigger, said Shaunna Murray of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Over the weekend, crews had to construct access roads to get to the site of the breach and bring in rocks and boulders to close the gap.
The river separates Santa Cruz and Monterey counties about 70 miles south of San Francisco. Several roads were closed, including a section of Coastal Highway 1, a major route between the two counties.
Monterey County officials also warned that the Salinas River could cause significant flooding of roads and farmland, cutting the Monterey Peninsula off from the rest of the county. The city of Monterey and other communities are located on the peninsula.
Undersheriff Keith Boyd said first responders had rescued about 170 people stranded in the county’s evacuation areas since Friday, including a woman and her baby who became stuck trying to drive through flood water.
The undersheriff said 20 to 40 people remained trapped near the Salinas River Monday because the roads were impassable to rescuers.
Authorities had received no reports of deaths or missing people linked to the storm as of Monday afternoon.
Winery and agriculture experts from the region said they were concerned about the impact of the storms on crops – both those in the ground that are currently under water and those scheduled to be planted for the coming growing season.
Karla Loreto, who works at a Pajaro gas station, said she is worried about the toll the flooding will take on farm workers in the area.
“The fields are flooded right now,” she said on Monday. “There are probably no jobs there at the moment. Probably no strawberries, no blackberries, no blueberries for this year.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday declared states of emergency in six more counties, after previously issuing statements for 34 counties.
Last week’s atmospheric flow carried warm subtropical moisture that caused melting in lower-elevation areas of California Snowpack of the Sierra Nevadawhich contributes to the runoff that swells rivers and streams.
But the snow cover is so deep and cold that it absorbed most of the rain, resulting in even greater snow cover in the southern and central Sierras, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Online data from the California Department of Water Resources showed Monday that the water content of the Sierra snowpack was 207% of the April 1 average, when it normally peaks. In the southern Sierra it was 248% of the average.
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