A lengthy and tedious cleanup is well underway for thousands of San Jose residents uprooted by historic flooding earlier in the week.
Evacuation orders have slowly been repealed as of Friday as officials clear contaminated water and hazardous debris such as sewage and chemicals from streets and homes, but mandatory evacuations remain in effect for those locations hardest hit by the rising water.
Authorities late Friday afternoon said 765 homes remained under evacuation.
Hieu Le lives in the soaked neighborhood of Rock Springs, which three days ago was under several feet of water tall enough to swallow cars and creep up front doors. His family's waterlogged couch is now wasting away along with a heap of other waste designated for dumpsters. His son's recently purchased laptop is soaked and worthless. Replacing these now flawed treasures and paying for a monthly rent set at roughly $1,600 each month adds to Le's troubles.
"No money," Le admitted.
Several inches of flood water on Tuesday rushed into the bottom story of Le's apartment, granting him only enough time to save a few cherished belongings.
"We opened the door," Le said. "We see the water go up. We can't go outside."
With no place to go, Le's two sons hopped on the dining room table while the three of them waited for a rescue boat to transport them to safety.
The flood waters have since subsided, allowing Le to slowly piece through his possessions and choose what's salvageable and what's not. The findings have not been positive.
"The smell, everything, no good," he said.
Officials hope to allow everyone impacted by the historic floods to return to their homes by Sunday. In the meantime, cleanup crews continue to pump flood waters back into Coyote Creek, remove hazardous waste from neighborhoods, inspect the structural integrity of saturated homes, and restore gas and power to those homes.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spent Friday thanking first responders who spent several hours paddling around neighborhoods rescuing families and pets as well as recovering belongings. He then rolled up his sleeves and took to the impacted neighborhoods to help in the cleanup effort.
Liccardo admitted earlier in the week that more could have been done to properly and effectively alert residents living along Coyote Creek that the body of water, which was rising as a result of recent rain and runoff from the swollen Anderson Reservoir, could spill its banks.