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As the Carmel Valley flooded, residents and their pets sought refuge

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Jonathan Linden
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KAZU News
. The Carmel River flowing into Carmel River State Beach on Jan.

The Carmel River is usually no more than a shallow creek. But with this week’s rain, that gentle stream through the Carmel Valley became a rushing river.

Karmina Beltran sits in her home along the Carmel River on Sunday evening, but instead of the sounds of birds and rustling leaves / all she can hear is the sound of the river outside her home.

“We just saw the water come up higher, and there were things floating down,” Beltran said. “There were like children's toys and a table going down the river at one point.”

Karmina and her family did take precautions before the storm, including building a sandbag barrier outside their home. But when water began to rise, the barriers didn’t last long.

“It was very disheartening after so many days of work to see just those few sandbags come down,” Beltran said.

Before the storm, Karmina and her family went through the painful process of sorting their belongings into piles of what to keep and what to let go.

“Not everything is gone, but we're displaced,” Beltran said. “The home you've been trying to build with your kids for so long, it's just very disheartening.”

For Courtney Adamski, the river in her backyard is normally a place her children love to play. “They go up and down the river; they have so much fun out there,” Adamski said.

That all changed last week when water levels rose, and the river grew to more than 30 feet wide. “Everything by the river was washed away: steps, boulders, landscaping, all of it. Trees are rushing by. It was wild, and it's roaring,” Adamski said.

And that’s when they were told to leave their home. “We received two evacuation orders. The first one was not mandatory,” Adamski said. “And then we had a sheriff knock on our door. It was scary.”

Adamski’s home was spared from flooding, but some of her neighbors experienced significant damage.

“Their yards flooded pretty quickly. A couple of houses, I think, flooded up the road, and animals needed to be moved,” Adamski said.

Beth Brookhouser works for the Monterey County SPCA and, as of Tuesday, said they were sheltering 15 animals, including a mix of “a mix of dogs, cats, and chickens, and we have also helped evacuate horses from flooded areas.”

Brookhouser says the shelter has been near capacity throughout the series of storms.

While in some disasters, there isn’t time to prepare, Brookhouser says this storm was different, “People had time to prepare, and a lot of people were able to move their animals to safe places before the storms hit.”

Many residents affected by the storm went to a hotel and not a shelter.

Julia Newmen owns the Carmel Valley Lodge, just a short distance uphill from the Carmel river.

“We're doing the best we can to help the locals have a place to stay,” Newman said.

On Tuesday, Newman’s lodge didn’t have power for 14 hours, so there wasn’t much she could do for her guests besides keep them out of the rain.

And while her lodge has been safe from the flood waters, it still has damage from the excessive amount of rain. “So we have not had direct flood damage, but we are starting to sustain roof leak,” Newman said.

Other damage to Newman's lodge includes a worsening crack in their swimming pool, which she says could cost $200,000 to repair.

Despite the damage, Newman remains optimistic. “We all prayed for rain, and I believe in prayer, and we got exactly what we prayed for,” Newman said. “So we should have been more clear in our prayers.”

Newman says floods and fire are just part of living along the central coast and that for her, it’s worth it.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 90.3 KAZU in Marina, California. He joined KAZU in October 2022 and had previously reported for fellow NPR-affiliate KVCR in San Bernardino, California.