One Year Later, San Jose Flood Victims Seek Progress, Accountability

Wednesday marks one year since the devastating floods in San Jose that prompted 14,000 people to be evacuated and caused more than $100 million in damages.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District hosted a gathering at Rocksprings Park to honor those affected by the storms and discuss future plans for a study on flooding solutions.

The feasibility study, which will assess flood risks to inform officials what needs to be done in a potential federally supported project, is nearly set to begin, according to water district spokesman Marty Grimes.

The study will be conducted in conjunction with the Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project, located over an expanse of nine miles between Montague Expressway and Tully Road.

The project was approved by voters as a part of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, which provides $22.6 million of community resource funding to projects like pollution prevention and restoring wildlife habitats in Silicon Valley, water district spokespeople said.

"The event today first and foremost recognized that people were negatively impacted from the flooding and some are still suffering," Grimes said. "Secondly, all the things that the district has done to reduce the flood risks and make us more prepared for next time around."

Grimes also mentioned that the water district removed vegetation from city property for the first time as well as tree blockages that were largely filling the creek.

Some people who were forced out of the Rock Springs neighborhood last Feb. 21 when it was under 4 feet of water never returned. Cars were submerged in some areas, and the flood from the overflowing Coyote Creek left behind blocks of deep sludge that took months to clean up.

"There was water all over," said Carmen Rapanut, whose home was flooded after repeated rain storms caused Anderson Dam to overflow and Coyote Creek to breach its banks.

Many people had to be rescued by firefighters. Rapanut was among them.

"There were so many people who were trapped," she said. "We had no warning."

At Rapanut's complex, some water marks and memories can't be scrubbed away.

"So many people were devastated. And then to try and collect money on it? It was hard," she said, adding she received an insurance reimbursement for her car.

Rapanut said Sacred Heart helped replaced all of her belongings, with some of the $7 million donated to the victims fund.

Barriers have since been installed at Coyote Creek. The Santa Clara Valley Water District said it would protect from a flood of the same size.

Flood victim Lai Nguyen said of the barriers, "I think that one will help a little bit, before the water gets in here."

Still, one year later, victims are hoping for progress and accountability.

"I hope they get that creek cleared out so the water will run smoother," Rapanut said. "Otherwise, we're in trouble again."

The city said the state Assembly passed new legislation providing an additional $5 million for low-income families affected by the flooding.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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