Evacuees returning home say damage is worse than they expected

A recovery effort is underway in San Jose after the extreme flooding there earlier this week. 

A total of 3,800 people remain under a mandatory evacuation order, but city officials are allowing many evacuees to return to their homes to see the damage that was done. 

The clean up could take weeks, if not months, especially in the Rock Springs neighborhood hit hard by the flooding. Later Friday, the city will be distributing dumpsters for people to throw away trash and debris. 

City crews were working late into the night to install a temporary sewage hose line to help with the recovery in the area as people begin to return to their homes. 

Some San Jose flood victims are getting their first look at the damage to their homes and some say it was much worse than they expected.

On Thursday, 13-year-old Daisy Barrangan was waiting with her parents to see if they could get into their first-floor apartment on Nordale Avenue, which was still in a mandatory evacuation area.

Yellow tape blocked off the neighborhood in the Rock Springs area of San Jose, off Senter Road near Phelan.

"I just want to go in the house and see what's left of everything," said Barrangan.

What the 8th grader didn't know is her optimism would soon meet a heartbreaking reality. Despite the order, the family decided to go in.

Daisy and her mother wrapped their shoes in plastic bags because to get into their home they had to walk through muddy sludge that firefighters say may be contaminated with sewage and chemicals and posed a health risk.

As they delicately walked to their apartment, Daisy's father Manuel Males arrived to the front door first.

"Oh my God," said Males as he opened the door to his home and saw it for the first time.

His daughter and wife echoed the same thing over and over.

They found the carpet was more like a muddy sponge and a stale stench throughout the entire home.

"It's sad because everything is gone now," said Barrangan.

There was a sense of bewilderment as the 13-year-old walked into her mud-soaked bedroom and discovered her UGG Boots and a white, Mexican folk dress soaked with muck and potential contaminates.

"I grew up dancing and now it's ruined and I had more dresses and I feel like their gone too," said Barrangan.
Her father showed us where the floodwaters came up and says that it moved their couches several feet from where they used to sit.
"I'm lost right now. This was my home and right now we don't know when we're going to come back. And this is pretty bad," said Males.

Males works as a mechanic and says they rent the apartment and don't have insurance.

His wife, who works in electronics, has a second job at home painting nails.  The floor to that work space was also flooded.

Outside on the street, one mud-covered family car with car seats in the back seat is a telling benchmark.

Firefighters showed KTVU a picture where you can only see the car's roof at the peak of the flooding on Tuesday. 

"That's what it looked like. This car was completely under water. Now the car is probably destroyed," said Captain Mitch Matlow with the San Jose Fire Department.

A playground next to Coyote Creek also flooded. It and the streets now need to be decontaminated.

"As far as estimating when they can go back into their homes, we can't do that yet because...we haven't cleaned the streets, we haven't cleaned the sidewalks," said Matlow.

Another family waded through the same mess, but they were lucky to have an upstairs apartment.

9-year-old Ngan Nguyen is in the 4th grade and says they've been staying with friends and her parents have been comforting her.

"They said that anywhere we live— at least we have a place to sleep," said Nguyen.

Thursday night, the city was power washing streets in the Rock Springs neighborhood and hoped to allow some residents to return soon.

The biggest progress was in the streets, where for the first time in three nights, there was no standing water.