Dramatic rescues in San Jose after relentless rain causes floods

Dramatic flood rescues

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a flash flood warning east of Carson City, Nevada. Two to four feet of water could overwhelm parts of Lyon County.

Floodwaters have already reached northern California after weeks of relentless rain.

The water rose Tuesday, suddenly, relentlessly, flooding homes and apartments.  Dozens had to be rescued by teams working in water that was often chest deep.  Rosie Ruiz was shocked to find her neighborhood underwater.

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Rescues in San Jose, California, after rising floodwaters. CBS News

“I left for school, take my daughter to school and then I come back and see all of this -- so it happened real fast,” Ruiz says. 

So fast, the flood trapped horses and submerged parked cars including Alti Sharma’s.

“Our car is here and we didn’t know this was happening,” Sharma says, pointing to a submerged car. 

It’s the result not just of one storm or a week of rain, but a season of record breaking torrential downpours that has left much of northern California a soggy mess.

The flooded neighborhood sits beside Coyote Creek, some 20 miles downstream from Anderson Reservoir, which is so full that water has been cascading down its spillway filling the creek to overflowing.

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Water has been cascading down the Anderson reservoir spillway filling Coyote Creek to overflowing. CBS News

The floodwaters also caused a miles long traffic jam, closing lanes of U.S. 101.

“We did anticipate this,” says San Jose Fire Captain Matt Low. “However, there was no way to totally prepare for this.”

Those being rescued in San Jose now have another concern.

“They are being decontaminated because this is polluted water,” Low says. “It could be sewage, it could be gasoline and motor oil  from cars that are now underwater.”   

The risk that other communities end up like this remains high -- more than a dozen California counties are under flood warnings.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.