San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo assumed responsibility Friday for failing to properly notify thousands of residents who were forced to flee as floodwaters inundated their neighborhoods this week.
Days after widespread flooding in central San Jose triggered mandatory evacuations for 14,000 residents, Liccardo called for an end to “the bureaucratic finger-pointing.”
“This happened in my city,” the mayor said at a news conference. “I am responsible.”
After weeks of winter rain, the Coyote Creek – which runs through the heart of the city – swelled to record heights and created mass flooding Tuesday.
As neighborhoods were besieged by floodwaters, firefighters paddled on rafts to rescue infants, elderly residents, pets and others trapped in homes, said San Jose firefighters union President Sean Kaldor.
Firefighters rescued homeless residents clinging to tree stubs near the creek’s bank, many holding tightly to plastic bags containing their belongings.
"The water was steadily growing to their waist and would have submerged them shortly,” Kaldor said. “This was fast-moving water.”
The trouble began Saturday, when Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir reached its capacity and water began flowing down its spillway. Heavy rains exacerbated the spill over Sunday night and Monday morning, advancing the flows from Anderson Reservoir into Coyote Creek.
The National Weather Service issued two flood warnings, the first Monday before 4 a.m., the second about 17 hours later, before water started pouring into San Jose homes Tuesday.
But some residents in the William Street area, one of the worst-hit neighborhoods, said they received no warning from the city via cellphone alerts and no local authorities came knocking before floodwaters started rising.
On Friday, Liccardo vowed to fix “whatever problems caused the lack of advance notice” to residents.
He said he would schedule public hearings to talk about the flooding and evacuations.
“The public deserves to get all the information, not just some of it,” Liccardo said.