Public Meeting Scheduled to Clear Up San Jose Flood Warning Dispute

The city of San Jose has set March 9 for the first public meeting to try to clear up the controversy surrounding what many residents are calling the late warning they received about flooding last week.

Documents released Tuesday by the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center will probably add fuel to the dispute between San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The county's EOC established an Operational Plan Period starting Feb. 15 in anticipation of flooding since the county is the main liaison with the state. That was six days before the devastating floods on Feb. 21.

San Jose and other entities are included in the plan because each city is responsible for emergency management within its boundaries.

According to the documents, the plan was launched because "Anderson Dam will begin spilling prior to or during the next series of storm systems."

The records show on Feb. 17 the water district reported "concern for Monday storm on Coyote Creek. Projected 7000 cfs (cubic feet per second) peak spillway flow."

By Feb. 20 at 8:30 a.m., the water district said four reservoirs were spilling and "Anderson is projected to hit 5000-8000 cfs over spillway with peak flow at 10 a.m. tomorrow."

Throughout the updates, San Jose responded by saying it was identifying evacuation and shelter locations, activating its own EOC, but seemingly did not widely alert residents along Coyote Creek until just before the flood.

The city sent out multiple community messages using the Santa Clara County alert system, including two the evening before and several more urgent messages on the day of the flood.

There is a behind-the-scenes dispute on whether the city was given accurate alerts or alerts with proper urgency from the water district directly.

Emails involving the mayor's office and the water district obtained by NBC Bay Area last Friday seemed to indicate city officials felt they were given inaccurate or misleading information just prior to the Feb. 21 flood.

Specifically, the emails showed the city felt the water district "overestimated" how much water the creek could handle before flooding.

Mayor Sam Liccardo has declined to comment on the emails or the county EOC documents, except to say he would not start "finger pointing" and that the focus should be on helping residents.

The mayor also repeatedly stated he is taking responsibility for what happened.

County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese declined to weigh in on the dispute but, in response to the EOC records, he told NBC Bay Area, "It's clear a systematic process was in place to ensure that all necessary notifications by the city to city residents could take place on a timely basis."

The public debate on whether that, in fact, happened will start March 9.

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