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More than 300 evacuated from San Diego tent shelter amid heavy rain, flooding

More than 300 evacuated from San Diego tent shelter amid heavy rain, flooding
In this November 2017 photo, a large industrial tent is under construction in San Diego. The 324-bed shelter is run by the Alpha Project. (Howard Lipin / The San Diego-Union-Tribune file photo)

Rain and floodwaters Thursday night prompted the evacuation of more than 300 homeless people from a tented shelter in the Barrio Logan area near Petco Park, a shelter official said.

The flooding at the shelter run by the Alpha Project occurred amid heavy rain and a countywide flash flood warning from the National Weather Service. The Alpha Project’s 324 clients — the shelter was at capacity Thursday — were taken to a temporary shelter at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium in Mission Valley.

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“It was major flooding — there was nothing that we could have done,” Alpha Project Chief Operating Officer Amy Gonyeau said. “The water was like 3 feet high in places. It was really crazy. I’ve never seen it like that.”

According to the National Weather Service, downtown San Diego received 2.27 inches of rain between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 8 p.m. Thursday.

The sudden onslaught of precipitation Thursday evening that prompted the flash flood warning overwhelmed low-lying areas throughout the county, including the tent shelter near Newton Avenue and 16th Street.

“It all happened so fast, it was crazy,” Gonyeau said. “But the staff is safe, the clients are safe, and the city was great.”

Gonyeau said city officials quickly sent several Metropolitan Transit System buses to transport the shelter’s clients to the stadium. Police radio traffic indicated the buses carrying the shelter evacuees traveled in a caravan to the stadium a little after 11 p.m. Flooding at the tent shelter had begun several hours before.

The Alpha Project tent and two others like it, which are operated by different organizations, shelter about 700 people total and opened near the beginning of the year. They were proposed as bridge shelters, meaning they were intended to be a bridge from the street to a home.

Along with the Alpha Project’s 324-bed tent, which is for homeless adults, Father Joe’s Villages operates a 150-bed tent downtown for families and single women, and Veterans Village of San Diego operates a 200-bed tent for veterans in the Midway District.

“Damages are yet to be determined,” Gonyeau said. “We have no idea when we’ll be able to reopen.”

Riggins writes for the San Diego Union Tribune.

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