Pajaro flooding leads to frustration for evacuated residents

It has been one week since the levee broke along the Pajaro River in Monterey County which caused an entire town to be evacuated.  As of Friday, residents of Pajaro are still not back in their homes and there is no firm timeline for them to return.

Evacuated resident Ruth Ruiz took her concerns to the Monterey County officials who have been giving updates on the progress toward re-opening.  

"It has been very frustrating. This is one of the first times we have had someone from the county actually giving out information," said Ruiz. "We come here every day for this same reason trying to get information and… nobody." 

There were some tense exchanges as frustrated residents asked questions of county staff members who, themselves, still have no firm answers. 

It was a week ago early Saturday morning, March 11, just after midnight that the levee protecting the town from the Pajaro River burst open. That prompted a massive rescue operation and a door-to-door sheriff’s effort to try to reach everyone who may not have received the message to evacuate. 

Both the counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz set up evacuation centers with the largest being at the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds where at one point more than 300 people were taking shelter.


Pajaro: The look of floods to come soon

The Pajaro levee break was no surprise and officials know it was weak and vulnerable to high, fast water flows.

Now, one week later, the water has receded, and street crews are busy trying to clean up the mess. Agricultural fields are also flooded taking away the jobs of many of this community’s residents. 

But the one thing residents here do not have is answers.  They want to know when will they be able to get back into the town to check on the condition of their homes, in some cases get medicine, and even check on pets that were left behind during the middle-of-the-night evacuations.

"It has been very hard because we are not allowed to go in. So today brought a note from the hospital to get my mom’s wheelchair so she can be discharged. But they are not letting me go in unless someone approves it and can escort me in there to get her wheelchair," said resident Maricela Vasquez.

"It is very frustrating because we also need to start cleaning as well as assess.  You know the longer we are stuck out here the more damage our houses are going to have," Ruiz said. "So it is very, very frustrating,"

Residents are now looking toward next week when more rains are predicted. They can only wonder if or how additional rains might further delay a return to their homes and their community.