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In the atmospheric river's bullseye, coastal Pescadero faces serious flooding

In the atmospheric river's bullseye, coastal Pescadero faces serious flooding
In the atmospheric river's bullseye, coastal Pescadero faces serious flooding 03:19

PESCADERO -- The entire town of Pescadero was gearing up for the approaching rainstorm Tuesday, but some who live there believe many of the flooding problems the community faces are actually man-made.

Just past noon, Jose Calvillo was helping his dad lift a new washer dryer up onto milk crates. The old washer was ruined on Saturday when the creek behind their home swelled up, flooding the house and depositing about six inches of sticky mud in the yard.

"I think the whole town is just in a flood zone, you know?" said Calvillo.

Pescadero storm preparations
Pescadero storm preparations. CBS

Pescadero sits at the very bottom of the San Mateo mountains watershed, just a stone's throw from where it all washes into the ocean. Surrounded on three sides by hills, the town knew what was going to happen when it started raining again.

"Oh, yeah. It's going to be slammed, are you kidding?" said resident Rob Skinner. "They said 6-10 inches, which is a whole lot of water. And that'll drain off all the hills and this is the only place it has to go."

Skinner is on the town's Advisory Council. He pointed out how Pescadero Creek was already clogging up with tree trunks and branches washed down from the 2020 CZU Complex Fire burn scar. But Skinner said some of the town's flooding problems are actually caused by errors in engineering. 

He says the agricultural dikes built decades ago form barriers to the natural flow of water.

"It's trying to follow the route, but the volume is too big for it," he explained. "So it needs to go straight out to the ocean."

And then there's Stage Road, the main street though the downtown. Skinner said it also causes flooding because traffic engineers left it too high when they replaced the roadway about 15 years ago.

"It's got a huge crown on it. So that, in essence, is a dike. So this side of Stage Road gets really hammered," said Skinner.

Skinner said in 2012 there was another flood that was so bad, the entire town had to be evacuated to Half Moon Bay, about 15 miles away.  

Now, businesses on both sides of the street had sandbags against their doors.  Rob Skinner's wife Cotton was removing a photo of her mother for safe keeping.  

"We're quite tense," she said.  "And it's tense for the town because we've seen many floods. But this is going to be one of the biggest one's, I think."

At the local high school, residents were busy filling even more bags to try to protect their houses. Ramon Perez was collecting sandbags not for just his home, but for three of his neighbors as well.

"When I'm here, I'm helping people too," said Perez. "By the time I'm here, I'm helping people. If I see they need help, I offer to help them."

That's the kind of thing that happens in small towns like Pescadero. They don't get a lot of help from the outside world in times of trouble. So they've gotten pretty good at helping each other.

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