State Officials Tour Flooded Neighborhoods of San Jose, Set to Determine Disaster Relief Figure

The California Office of Emergency Services and Small Business Administration on Tuesday continued to comb through the battered neighborhoods of San Jose while they determine how much disaster assistance money will be doled out to homeowners, businesses and local jurisdictions previously overwhelmed by historic flood waters.

Current estimates from San Jose city officials indicate that the city suffered $50 million in private property damage when polluted flood water — chalk full of sewage, gasoline, oil and chemicals — swallowed cars and rushed into the first story of several homes along the swollen Coyote Creek roughly two weeks ago.

A total of 140 homes suffered major damage while 399 homes sustained minor damage, according to officials. The state put the flood in perspective.

"So we have residents that are impacted here," said David Cruise, OES regional director. "We have residents impacted across the entire state for all the storms that have hit us through January and February and even as far back as December."

Footing the entire bill for private repair costs will likely not all come from the Office of Emergency Services, according to San Jose Deputy Manager Kip Harkness.

"I think it will be very difficult case for us to get the amount of money that we requested," he said. "I feel like we're getting really good cooperation, collaboration with folks that are here on the ground. They are listing to our stories. They are talking to our people. They are understanding what's going on, but they also have rules and regulations that they have to follow and that puts us at a disadvantage because it doesn't quite take into account that even though (it) is a relatively few number, how many people were really affected by this."

The Office of Emergency Services is expected to announce next week or later how much money, if any, will be handed out to flood victims.

Regardless of that amount, the city of San Jose says it will continue to assist residents with block grants, community fundraising and housing vouchers.

For now, the city is focusing on more immediate situations. On Tuesday, it announced the Seven Trees shelter, with about 200 residents, is now being run by nonprofit Home First.

One priority at the shelter is residents' health. Recently, 15 people got food poisoning and others have complained of illnesses.

"We're lucky enough to have Valley Medical Center backpack medicine on-site every Friday and possibly other medical services here," Home First CEO Andrea Urton said. "But we can also transport them immediately to a doctor's office or the hospital."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency decided not to tour or consider funding for private units tarnished by the high water, but it did tour impaired public buildings and is considering funding for those units. San Jose is requesting $18 million to fix flawed parks, bridges and roads. Initial estimates were listed at $23 million.

Several residents claim the city failed to properly notify the public before high-rising water inundated homes and cars. And on Tuesday, officials heard from flood victims who still need bare essentials.

"Food, clothing, blankets and money to buy all that stuff," resident Maria Quintero said.

"I'm so frustrated by this," flood victim Hien Nguyen said. "I'm a 70-year-old woman and to face that flood disaster, it's terrible, horrible."

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo immediately took the blame for the historic flooding, and he recently noted that the city should have had more bodies to prevent such a catastrophe from uprooting residents from their homes.

"There's no question that if we had more staff there would be more to do, better preparation," he said Monday. "There's no question we could do better."

NBC Bay Area on Monday learned that San Jose was short-staffed when the Coyote Creek breached its banks and sent water from the saturated Anderson Reservoir flowing into neighborhoods.

The position of director of the Emergency Operations Center was vacant at the time of the flooding, forcing Assistant City Manager David Sykes and county officials to fill in. A new EOC director has been hired and is expected to start on March 13, according to Liccardo.

The city this week will also hold its first public hearing to discuss what went wrong leading up to the flooding. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

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