Crews shore up Pajaro River 400-foot levee breach with rocks

Crews are working 24 hours a day building a rock barrier to slow the water flow into the Pajaro community, where residents were evacuated after the Pajaro River levee was breached over the weekend due to the heavy rainstorm, county officials said.

The breach was at least 400 feet wide, officials said. 

On Tuesday morning, it looked as though some of the water, which had waterlogged and evacuated the city of about 1,700 residents, had receded. 

But residents were bracing for another round of fresh storms to hit throughout the day. They likely won't be able to return home for weeks, or possibly even months. 

Monterey County officials said on Monday that crews will need about a week to complete the rock barrier, intended to reduce the breach from getting wider and slow the flow of water.

MORE: Pajaro residents question levee's integrity after breach causes massive flooding

Aerial views over the community, composed largely of farmworkers, showed homes engulfed in brown water. With flooding inundating fields, roads closed and areas evacuated, the agricultural season is expected to be delayed or badly impacted.

"The fields are flooded right now," said Pajaro resident Karla Loreto. "Probably no jobs there right now. For this year, probably no strawberries, no blackberries, no blueberries."

Many of the residents had to evacuate and went to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds to seek a warm, dry place to sleep. 

"Some people have nowhere to go," said Pajaro resident Jorbelit Rincon. "Pretty much they don't know where to go and don't have money to provide for themselves."

Meanwhile, Highway 1, the main route between Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, remained closed for a second day Monday. The highway was submerged under muddy floodwaters because of the same levee breach. 

The Pajaro River, which forms the border of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, has flooded at least six times in the last 70 years — in December 1955, April 1958, February 1986, March 1995, January 1998 and February 1998.

Fox Weather reporter Max Gorden contributed to this report. 

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"I’m kinda scared," Oliver Gonzalez, 12, said several hours later from an evacuation center in nearby Watsonville. "My mom’s car was left in the water."