‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ flooding prompts hundreds of rescues in San Jose

Dylan Douglas Hamlin, 21, straps up a car motor at Modesto's Driftwood Mobile Home Park on Tuesday morning. He's leaving the park because of the Tuolumne River's flooding.
(Liam Dillon / Los Angeles Times)

San Jose city officials declared a local emergency after streets became flooded as water levels rose along Coyote Creek. San Jose firefighters traversed flooded streets in rafts, rescuing residents trapped in their homes and in trees in the Rock Springs neighborhood. Those who walked through dirty floodwaters were hosed off and decontaminated, officials said.

Officials issued mandatory evacuations for 300 homes in the neighborhood, where water was waist-high in some streets, said city spokesman David Vossbrink. At least 40 people were evacuated to an overnight shelter.

“We haven’t really had anything quite like this before,” he said.

The last time San Jose experienced severe flooding was about 20 years ago, Vossbrink said.

The creek runs for 30 miles through San Jose, he said. Flooding varies from street to street because of the changing topography in each neighborhood, Vossbrink said.


“It’s really a complex hydrological issue,” he said.

However, water levels should start receding by midnight, Vossbrink said. After the water retreats, officials will go door to door to assess damage to homes, city buildings and other facilities, he said.

The Anderson Dam in Santa Clara County reached capacity Saturday about 5 a.m., according to the California Department of Water Resources.

But it wasn’t until a downpour Sunday night and Monday morning that water began flowing over its wall and into Coyote Creek.

The flow of water into the dam peaked Tuesday afternoon, department spokeswoman Maggie Macias said. Coyote Creek then flooded lanes on the 101 Freeway and triggered evacuations in low-lying areas.

“The water started to seep in the driveway, and then it started to creep up into the front door. It kept getting worse and worse,” Alex Hilario, who walked in knee-high water to get to his car and leave the area, told the Associated Press.

“We didn’t get a chance to get anything out,” Hilario said.

Bobby Lee, 15, said he was rescued with his brother and parents, who took clothes, electronics and some photos from their home in a neighborhood that ended up littered with submerged cars.

“This is like once in a lifetime,” Lee told the AP.

Earlier Tuesday, firefighters rescued five people stranded by flooding at a homeless camp along the same creek in San Jose.

The San Jose Mercury News placed the total number of rescues at about 200.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.