Residents left in flooded California farm town of Pajaro feel 'abandoned' as levees fail

Ruben Vives, Susanne Rust and Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

PAJARO, Calif. — Dora Alvarez stood on the balcony of her two-story apartment building Tuesday, holding a garden hose next to a rain gutter and steering the water toward recycling bins below for her family to use after boiling it.

“As long as they don’t shut the gas off, we’ll be OK,” she said.

Alvarez, 54, and her family were among the residents who chose not to evacuate Pajaro, the small migrant town that flooded when a levee on the Pajaro River failed late Friday, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes.

“I know some people criticize us for not leaving, but the flooding danger isn’t here, it’s somewhere else,” Alvarez said, pointing south toward Salinas Road, which was submerged in water.

Standing nearby, her neighbor Karla Loreto, 35, nodded in agreement.

“We’re also not going to be wandering around in search of danger,” Loreto said.


The town has in many ways become ground zero for the latest atmospheric river storm walloping California, the 11th of the season so far.

The storm has dropped even more rain and snow on the beleaguered state and sent thousands of residents racing from rising waters. By Tuesday evening, about 336,000 households were without power, and 70 flood watches and warnings were in effect.

Pajaro — a small town of about 3,000 people, many of them migrant farmworkers — may not recover for a long time.

“Areas that were flooded and remain flooded are still under an evacuation order, so therefore it’s not going to be a matter of days,” Nicholas Pasculli, a Monterey County spokesperson, said during a news briefing. “We want people to get back into their homes as soon as possible, and we’re going to do whatever we can to make that happen, but there’s going to be cases, without a doubt, that people will not be able to return to some of their homes.”


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