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Tuesday's atmospheric river will have 'wide-reaching and long-lasting impacts'

First Alert Weather Monday afternoon forecast
First Alert Weather Monday afternoon forecast 02:52

PAJARO -- With flood waters still rising in Monterey County, a new threat was rapidly approaching the Bay Area Monday as a powerful storm front fueled by moisture from the Hawaiian Islands bore down on the region.

Forecasters were predicting the Cat 2 or Cat 3 atmospheric river will pummel the region beginning late Monday night. A low-pressure system spinning northeast of the Bay Area will intensify the storm's rain and winds.

KPIX 5 First Alert Weather: Current Conditions, Forecasts, Alerts For Your Area

Flooded roadways, landslides, falling trees and power outages were expected across the waterlogged region.

"This is shaping up to be a significant system with the potential for wide-reaching and long-lasting impacts," the  National Weather Service said.

A flood watch for the entire Bay Area was in place until Wednesday with a high wind warning kicking in on Monday night "given increasing confidence in the expectation for strong to damaging wind gusts."

Flooding was also expected to continue along the Salinas and Pajaro rivers as the brunt of the storm roars into the Monterey Peninsula.

"Latest guidance indicates the bulk of the atmospheric will once again come onshore to our south with stronger forecast into Central California," the weather service said. "Saturated soils coupled with elevated river and stream levels suggest that water related impacts are a sure bet."

That's not the news the residents of the flooded farm community of Pajaro needed to hear.  A levee breach has sent thigh-high water rushing through the community.

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While more than 2,000 residents have been evacuated, Maria Garcia and her family are among those who have chosen to stay.

"We stay here because it'll cost a lot more if we leave," Garcia told KPIX.

TOPSHOT - Naomi Rodriguez treads through flood waters to reach her home in the Pajaro area of Watsonville, California on Saturday, March 11, 2023. - Residents were forced to evacuate in the middle of the night after an atmospheric river surge broke the the Pajaro Levee and sent flood waters flowing into the community. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Her parents are farmworkers. Recent storms flooded the strawberry fields where they work. Garcia interpreted for her father Jesus Garcia.

"They're trying not to waste that much money, because they haven't been to work for two months, so there's not a lot of money and the fact that this closed down, and we can't go over there, so we can't really get food either, so we have to keep a budget," Garcia explained of the closed bridge. 

Santa Cruz County supervisor Felipe Hernandez said on Sunday, the shelter at the fairgrounds was completely full.  

"It's heartbreaking, for me I'm thinking about recovery after this disaster how we can get back on our feet, how we get our economy back, our local economy is all agriculture here," said Hernandez. 

He said Pajaro, which last flooded in 1995, needs help from the state and federal government. 

He advises residents choosing to stay behind under the mandatory evacuation order to think again. 

"I think everywhere that we have an evacuation order they're under three feet of water right now. And the National Guard is in there, so it's not a matter of they can stay there, it's dangerous for them to stay there," he said. 

Monterey County sent out an unsafe water alert Sunday night. 

"We got water before, like a lot of water just in case, we have a water bottle to wash our hands with," said Jonathan Alcantar, who is staying behind with his father.  

But the new round of rain has Alcantar's family reconsidering their choice.

"He feels like we're probably going to have to leave this time," Jonathan said of his father. They are sticking it out for now. 

"And the bathroom situation... we have two days since we haven't taken a shower... we have clothes we haven't cleaned, and the food problem, and the animal problem," added Garcia.  

Garcia found a cat that was left behind by another family and is taking care of it temporarily. 

Her dad said he feels stuck - literally and figuratively. 

"He feels affected because he can't protect his family and serve them as a father should and he can't really leave having to not come back here," she added. 

KPIX Reporter Betty Yu contributed to this report 

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