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New Flood Evacuation Orders Issued In San Jose

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- As flooding along Coyote Creek in San Jose continued into the night Tuesday, San Jose officials issued expanded evacuation notices for an area stretching from Capitol Expressway to State Route 237.

UPDATE 2/22: Thousands Remain Evacuated From San Jose Flooding

At about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday night, San Jose city officials issued at mandatory evacuation for the rectangular area north of E. William and south of Santa Clara streets specifically for the homes on the creek side along South 17th Street to South 19th Street.

Residents in this area should immediately evacuate to homes of family or friends, or to one of San Jose's two designated evacuation centers and overnight shelters.

Additionally, the entire area along Coyote Creek, north of 280 and south of 237 at 9:30 p.m. was issued an evacuation advisory, According to San Jose officials, it is urgent and important that residents in this area evacuate to the homes of family or friends, or to one of San Jose's two designated evacuation centers.

"We're expanding the mandatory evacuation order to nearly all residents east of Coyote Creek but west of (U.S. Highway) 101," except for
the Bonita neighborhood," Mayor Sam Liccardo said on Twitter at 10:42 p.m.

San Jose city staff and community service officers were on the streets distributing flyers in affected neighborhoods urging residents and businesses to prepare for evacuation.

Residents were urged to leave their homes with only the most necessary items, including pets and medications, and head for the evacuation centers set up at the Roosevelt Community Center at 901 E. Santa Clara St.  and the Shirakawa Community Center at 2072 Lucretia Ave.

Additional overnight shelters at Evergreen Valley High School at 3300 Quimby Road and James Lick High School at 57 North White Road were also being operated by the Red Cross and the San Jose Department of Parks.

While those facilities cannot accept pets, evacuated residents can take their pets to the San Jose Animal Shelter at 2750 Monterey Road.

The evacuation order and advisory came after a full day of crews dealing with flood emergencies in the South Bay left some neighborhoods completely underwater as fire crews helped evacuate hundreds of residents by boat.

Coyote Creek raged over its banks Tuesday morning and continued to cause problems near Kelley Park throughout the day.

Two of the worst hit areas were in South San Jose. An apartment complex was left underwater at 12th and Keyes while several homes flooded in the area of Senter and Phelan.

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Tuesday morning at around at about 6:30 a.m., San Jose Fire received reports of people in trees near Lone Bluff Way and the Los Lagos Golf Course. Over the course of the next few hours, fir boat crews pulled five people from the flooded homeless encampment.

Then fire crews were faced with evacuating dozens of homes and businesses in the Nordale neighborhood near Kelley Park, according to San Jose fire spokesman Capt.  Mitch Matlow.

"Coyote Creek is rising because of water coming out of Anderson (Reservoir)," Matlow said. "We have a neighborhood that's basically underwater."

The crews responded to the Nordale area at about 10 a.m. just after completing the rescue operation at the Los Lagos Golf Course and as the high waters continue to flood downstream towards the Bay, more neighborhoods could be inundated.

Water rescue teams were using boats and other vehicles to go door-to-door and pull residents to safety, Matlow said.

City officials have declared a local emergency and issued a call for voluntary evacuations of neighborhoods along the creek, which traverses the length of the city from Morgan Hill to the San Francisco Bay.

The flooding is partly blamed on water rushing down the spillway of the Anderson Reservoir, which the latest series of storms have filled to beyond its capacity.

"It's an uncontrollable flow at this point," Matlow said. "How much water we're going to get here and how high it's going to rise, we don't know."

The early evacuation order resulted in the closure of two Santa Clara County Social Services Agency offices—In-Home Supportive Services and CalWORKs Continuing Benefits—on Senter Road.

By Tuesday afternoon, there were 60 buildings to search with over 225 victims being rescued in just three boats. As the hours grew long, some residents got tired of waiting and decided enough was enough.

Hoang Nguyen was one of those who took a gamble by leaving on his own, hoping he wouldn't trip and fall. He made it out despite warnings from rescue crews who said it was too dangerous.

"I don't agree," Nguyen told KPIX 5 in Vietnamese. "I waited, but when no one came, I figured it was time to go."

The water spilling in from Coyote Creek was cold and murky. As it filtered through the neighborhoods, it became a noxious stew of sewage, dirty diapers, household chemicals and engine oil.

The firefighters urged everyone to stay put and wait for rescue. Once on land, the victims – ranging from the elderly to toddlers to pets -- were decontaminated with soap and water.

The evacuees were then loaded onto county buses for a ride to the shelter.

Flood victim Juanita Wilson said her belongings started to float around her apartment.

"That's like a nightmare, said Wilson. "It's kind of like something you can't believe is happening but it is happening."

Margaret Cervantes lives on the second story of one of the buildings caught in the flood. She lost her car, but was able to grab some valuables.

"Just a little bit overwhelmed with everything that's happened," said Cervantes. "I was fortunate enough to be able to grab baby books, pictures, clothes, my children, so I feel fortunate."

Just a few blocks away, Coyote Creek flooded another apartment complex on 12th at Keyes.

Three more buildings were under mandatory evacuation.

Evacuee Eric Lamb had been watching the news reports and was ready with his bags packed.

"The water started coming in, and then it started more and more and more," remembered Lamb. "And then finally the fire department showed up and told that everyone had to get out."

No significant injuries have been reported.

San Jose Police Department planned to guard the Nordale neighborhood at Senter and Phelen Streets through the night after the area was evacuated, according to authorities.

Police were set to maintain watch to make sure nothing happens in the wake of the evacuations.

Additional flooding was reported Tuesday evening at the South Bay Mobile Home Park on Oakland Road. While the mobile home park is over five miles away from the neighborhood that flooded earlier, Coyote Creek was also the culprit in that incident.

Dozens of Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies, firefighters and San Jose city employees were going door-to-door in the park to tell residents that evacuations were underway. Buses were parked outside the mobile home park to move the evacuees to safety.

By shortly after 9 p.m., San Jose Fire confirmed they have completed the evacuation of the South Bay Mobile Home Park which has approximately 500 mobile homes.

Authorities evacuated as many people as were willing to go, though some residents elected to stay despite the recommendation of officials.

San Jose Fire said they would not use force to get residents to evacuate the park.

People were being warned to stay away from standing water, avoid downed trees and power lines and to get out of any area where water appears to be rising.

With floodwaters still rising, the city issued a voluntary evacuation order for low lying areas near Coyote Creek between Capitol Expressway and I-880.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said Tuesday's rescues should be a warning to take these recommendations seriously.

"I think anybody who's in a low lying area along Coyote Creek, in that region I described, should be finding an alternative place to sleep tonight," said Liccardo.

Officials said it was too early for Monday morning quarterbacking the evacuations, but defended their flood preparation plan and the data they got from hydrologists.

"They did the best job they could to get us that information and we built our plans for the last week based on that information, and we reacted according to that information," said Matlow. "We knew we were going to have flooding in San Jose, we did not know how bad it was [going to be]."

The mayor was somewhat less forgiving in his assessment.

"I can tell you this: any time we are showing up in boats to get people out of their homes, there's been a failure," said Liccardo. "Clearly we fell short if the first time folks are hearing about having to get out of their home is when we're showing up in a boat."

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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