Waist-high waters flooded hundreds of homes in a neighborhood of San Jose on Tuesday after heavy rains drenched the state, causing a creek in the Northern California city to overflow, officials said.
The city of about 1 million people, a hub of Silicon Valley south of San Francisco, declared a local emergency as water overflowed Coyote Creek and flooded the low-lying Rock Springs neighborhood.
Trash-strewn water inundated city blocks as firefighters in inflatable boats ferried stranded residents to dry ground.
The area is full of apartment complexes and townhouses and brown floodwater lapped against their walls and reached the windshields of parked cars.
Nearly 200 residents were evacuated, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told a news conference. The city was advising residents of other creekside neighborhoods to leave their homes because flooding could spread, he said.
Liccardo told reporters city officials were slow in warning residents of Rock Springs of the coming flood.
“As I sit here today and I look out at a neighborhood that’s completely inundated with water … there’s no question in my mind there was a failure of some kind,” he said.
City officials had no reports of deaths or injuries from the flooding, said San Jose spokesman David Vossbrink. At least 300 homes were flooded, he said.
The San Jose Fire Department on social media advised people caught in the floodwater to allow firefighters to decontaminate them because the waters contain pollutants.
The latest in a series of rainstorms that struck Northern California on Sunday intensified on Monday then weakened on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists described it as an “atmospheric river” bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean.
This followed another major rainstorm that triggered a crisis last week at the Oroville Dam, more than 100 miles (160 km) northeast of San Francisco, when its spillways were damaged by rushing waters and more than 100,000 people down river were ordered to evacuate.
California is slowly recovering from five years of drought thanks to several months of wet weather.
At least 3 inches (8 cm) of rain fell in many parts of the region, while some received far more, including more than 8 inches (20 cm) in the largely unpopulated Big Sur area and outside the city of Santa Rosa, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy rains have also caused flooding in Nevada in recent weeks.
The Lyon County Emergency Management agency in a statement on Tuesday said a retention basin outside the community of Dayton, in northwest Nevada, was overflowing. “Currently there are no homes or property threatened. There is potential that could change in the next few hours,” the statement said.
The next heavy storm is expected to hit Northern California this weekend, the National Weather Service said.
(This version of the story corrects 11th paragraph to show Oroville Dam is northeast of San Francisco, not northwest)
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by James Dalgleish)