San Jose flooding: City looks to recover

SAN JOSE (BCN) -- Over 11,000 people affected by a mandatory evacuation order since Coyote Creek started flooding on Tuesday are now being allowed to return to their homes, San Jose city officials said at a news conference in the inundated Rock Springs neighborhood this morning.

Mandatory evacuation zones have shrunk from 14,000 to 3,800 people, assistant city manager Dave Sykes said. Only 1,100 homes, down from 4,000, remain under mandatory evacuation.

"By Sunday we'll be able to get a lot of people into their homes, but not all of them," Sykes said.

All 559 mobile homes in the South Bay, Riverbend and Golden Wheel mobile home parks on Oakland Road are still under evacuation, as are all of the 347 homes evacuated in Rock Springs.

Many homes in the William Street Park area were cleared for reentry on Wednesday, but others remain evacuated.

"We're basically moving from managing the impacted areas to a reentry and recovery phase," Sykes said at the conference, explaining that efforts were focused on cleanup and door-to-door inspections before letting people back into their homes.

"Fundamentally, we're dealing with a 100-year storm," Sykes said.

Crews worked nearby pumping brown water that, unlike in the William Street area, is not running back into the creek on its own.

Pumping operations at the mobile home parks on Oakland Road were completed this morning, Sykes said.

The flood hit when the South Bay Mobile Home Park was being re-plumbed, according to San Jose fire Capt. Mitch Matlow. Electricity and gas have been shut off at all three parks, which, Sykes said, were not as badly affected as Rock Springs.

Debris removal will start Friday and Saturday in the less affected areas, but will be delayed until the water is pumped out in heavily inundated areas like Rock Springs.

After heavy storms last week, the scattered showers forecast by the National Weather Service for the weekend are "good news" for cleanup efforts, Sykes said.

Meanwhile, police continue to patrol all evacuated areas to ensure home security.

Councilman Tam Nguyen spoke out on behalf of the mostly Vietnamese-speaking Rock Springs neighborhood, where about 390 homes have been flooded.

Information about the flooded areas is now available online in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English.

"We can do a better job in terms of translation," Sykes said.

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Nguyen called for landlords in the Rock Springs neighborhood not to charge their tenants rent for three months because, he said at the conference, "for the next couple months or so, I don't think they'll be able to stay here."

A flooded pumping station has temporarily jeopardized sanitary sewer service in the neighborhood, so portable toilets are being delivered today while crews work to fix the problem, city spokesman David Vossbrink said.

The overnight shelters operated by the Red Cross and the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services that early this morning were housing 144 people at James Lick High School and 10 people at Evergreen Valley High School will have to move before students return to school on Monday.

City officials will announce the location of the new shelters "well before Monday," Sykes said. Pets should be taken to the San Jose Animal Shelter at 2750 Monterey Road.

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone urged property owners who may have suffered $10,000 or more in flood damage to read about the calamity property tax relief program and download the claim form at sccassessor.org.

A local assistance center with booths offering resources from the city, the county, the Red Cross and other agencies to residents and businesses affected by the flooding will open at the Shirakawa Community Center at 2072 Lucretia Ave. on Saturday, Sykes said.

Shirakawa and Mayfair community centers stopped serving as evacuation centers Wednesday evening due to lack of need.

Three Senter Road facilities of the Santa Clara County Department of Employment and Benefit Services have been closed since Tuesday due to the flooding.

The benefit assistance center at 1867 Senter Road, CalWORKS Continuing Benefits at 1870 Senter Road and CalWORKS Employment Services at 1879 Senter Road are still operating at 650 South Bascom Ave. and 880 Ridder Park Drive in San Jose.

The county's In-Home Support Services, located at 1888 Senter Road, reopened today.

City officials are "exploring every opportunity" for state and federal relief funding, Sykes said, estimating the damage at millions of dollars.

Items like clothing for flood victims are not needed, but financial donations for their recovery can be made to the Red Cross at redcross.org/donate/donation or the Silicon Valley Community Foundation at sanjosemayor.org, city officials said.

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