State superintendent promises help for Pajaro as town struggles to recover from floods

Two weeks after a levee break forced the entire town of Pajaro to evacuate, residents are still trying to put their lives back together.

The town still has no water or sewer service. 

The closure of a middle school has forced about 450 students to take classes at an entirely different school.

Traffic is once again allowed on Salinas Road, which is one of the main roads through town. Despite that small sense of normalcy on the outside, the community has a very long road ahead.

Pajaro Middle School, which was closed due to flooding, used to be a vibrant campus. But it's now an emergency resource center.

On Friday, a steady stream of displaced residents rolled through the campus to get cases of water, bags of hygiene and household supplies. They also stopped by to use restrooms with showers attached.

"It has been super helpful because most of the people here didn’t know what to do next. Especially by themselves," said displaced Pajaro resident Fernando Magallon.

Magallon was one of the 3,000 residents that were evacuated in the middle of the night two weeks ago when a levee protecting the town from the Pajaro River burst.

As the front loaders and crews continue cleaning up the damage to local businesses and homes, Magallon said all of these resources are critical.

"After we left we had no other option other than to bounce from hotel to hotel, do more hours to make ends meet. Because all of our stuff is here. That is all that we have really known, really," he said.

On Friday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond toured Pajaro Middle School to see the flooding damage firsthand.

He said the state is going to do all it can to get the school back open, including pressuring insurance carriers, and federal representatives, to clear the way for additional funding to help with clean up efforts.

"It is heartbreaking to know people have lost their homes. We have reached out to our federal partners, even since being here, to move resources along," Thurmond said.

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District estimates about 1,600 students in all were impacted by the floods about 450 of them here at Pajaro Middle School. About 90% of those students are now back in classes at a different middle school campus, Lakeview Middle School, in Watsonville.


Pajaro Valley flood victims in desperate need of help

The flood waters in the Pajaro Valley, just outside of Watsonville have receded. But people who were forced to evacuate are concerned about what's ahead.

All the displaced students assembled in the gym, and cheered, when Thurmond came to visit.

Pajaro Middle School student Jazmin Santiago met Thurmond and said the sudden transition to a different campus has been jarring.

"It is very different I am not used to it.  I would like to go back to my school but we are staying here the rest of the school year so I don’t know.  I think I have to just get used to it," Santiago said.

Back at the resource center, Magallon has just one message.

"So it really warms my heart to see that other people care about this place when we have had to deal with so much already. Thank you very much," he said.

At this point there is no firm estimate as to when the water and sewer service will be restored in Pajaro.