San Jose leaders have fielded a slew of questions about the historic floods that have displaced thousands since Tuesday and why people were not given a heads-up about the danger they faced.
Mayor Sam Liccardo on Wednesday admitted that the warning systems in place are unacceptable.
“If a resident hears for the first time from a firefighter on a boat that they need to get out, then clearly there’s been a failure,” he said.
The overflowing Anderson Reservoir in Morgan Hill triggered a mandatory evacuation of roughly 14,000 residents, forcing firefighters to rescue more than 400 people over the last two days alone.
At a command center on William Street, officials on Wednesday determined what homes are safe to return to. They said the actual evacuations ran smoothly. Everything before that – not so much.
San Jose’s Rock Springs and Nordale neighborhood experienced floods in 1997. But in the 20 years since, the Santa Clara Valley Water District said Coyote Creek has not undergone any flood control projects.
“There have been no federal funds,” said Rachel Gibson with the water district. “There has been no federal project along Coyote Creek since 1997.”
City leaders also say they didn’t order evacuations sooner in the water-logged neighborhood because their data showed it was not supposed to flood when it did. Specifically, they say the water was flowing below the creek’s capacity.
“We did not anticipate flow to come out of the channel at that time,” said Dave Sykes, director of the Emergency Operations Center. “So we need to identify: Were there blockages? What were the causes contributing to the flow channel coming out at that time?”
Meanwhile, Liccardo has teamed up with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to create a San Jose Flood Victims Relief Fund to help the thousands of people whose lives have been upended by the severe flooding.