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Santa Cruz County Floods: Know About The Cleanup And Recovery Efforts

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Santa Cruz County Floods: Santa Cruz County was hit with a series of storms in January 2023 that caused widespread flooding, landslides, power outages, and damage to homes and businesses. These floods were caused by intensive rain that exceeded historical averages for the region as well as melting snow from nearby mountains; flooding affected multiple locations within Santa Cruz County including Watsonville, Pajaro Valley Felton Corralitos Ben Lomond West Cliff Drive as a result. Here are the main points regarding recovery efforts:

Evacuations and Rescues

Santa Cruz County Floods
Santa Cruz County Floods

County officials’ top priority was ensuring the safety of residents and visitors who were trapped or threatened by rising floodwaters. Many roads had become impassable due to flooding or debris accumulation, forcing people to evacuate their homes or seek shelter elsewhere. Some of the areas subject to evacuation orders or warnings included:

  • On March 11, 20231, the Pajaro River levee in Monterey County breached, forcing hundreds of people from their homes in Watsonville and Pajaro Valley to leave immediately.
  • On January 9, 2023, the San Lorenzo River reached its second highest water level since record keeping began in 1937, submerging homes and roads in Felton Grove.
  • Corralitos Creek near Corralitos north of Watsonville flooded on January 9, 20234, affecting multiple homes and businesses in its path. Due to heavy rain on February 27-28, 2023, Highway 9 in Santa Cruz County was also shut down for several days due to mudslides which blocked access to many communities along its route.
  • Caltrans, PG&E, Santa Cruz County Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Agency collaborated with Public Works Department (PWD), Health Department (SCDH) and Planning Department (SCCPD) to assist and provide resources to those impacted by floodwaters.

Cleanup and Restoration

Cleanup and restoration efforts commenced immediately as soon as the storms subsided, as soon as January 10th had come and gone. On January 10, 2023, the county activated their emergency operations center (EOC), a multi-agency team responsible for responding during emergencies, as well as creating an information hotline (831-454-3000) so residents could report any hazards or damages caused by floodwaters.

The county utilized various crews and equipment to clear debris from roadsides, bridges, culverts, ditches, storm drains, parks, beaches, schools, libraries, community centers, fire stations, hospitals, senior centers and other public facilities. Waste Management, Caltrans and other private contractors assisted the county in disposing of hazardous materials such as gasoline, oil, paint solvents and pesticides that leaked from damaged vehicles or buildings that needed disposal.

The county also provided financial aid to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit organizations who experienced losses or damages caused by floodwater. This aid included grants, loans with low-interest rates and tax relief programs; in addition free sandbags were given out free to protect properties from flooding. Various organizations such as United Way of Santa Cruz County Food Bank Shelter Trust distributed food water clothing shelter kits as essential supplies in need communities across Santa Cruz County.

Future Preparedness

The floods exposed a range of vulnerabilities and challenges facing Santa Cruz County when it comes to flooding hazards. Some examples are:

  • Failing infrastructure (levees, dams, reservoirs, pumps, filters and sensors) that could properly manage water flows and prevent overflow is often responsible for this phenomenon.
  • Failure of different agencies and stakeholders to plan comprehensively and coordinate actions against flood risks and implement mitigation measures.
  • Residents lack awareness and education regarding flood dangers and emergency preparedness measures.

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