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Pajaro River Levee Breached: Where to Find Evacuation Shelters

The Pajaro River seen from the Pajaro side at 4:30 a.m. just after breaching the levee late on March 11, 2023. (Jonathan Linden/KAZU)
Jonathan Linden
The Pajaro River seen from the Pajaro side at 4:30 a.m. just after breaching the levee late on March 11, 2023. (Jonathan Linden/KAZU)

The Pajaro River on the border of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties breached a levee early this morning and is now flooding the community of Pajaro — a small town of just over 1,200 people.

Updated 11:50 am, Saturday

“This community is a small, disadvantaged community, mostly Latino, mostly low income farmworkers,” said Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chair Luis Alejo. He added that this same flooding happened in 1985. “It's heartbreaking to see the community under flood waters today. And we know that these residents are going to go through some challenging times over the next several months to try to get their homes repaired and make them habitable again.”

Alejo said the evacuations are continuing and that residents who didn’t leave last night are being escorted out with vehicles provided by the National Guard and the Salinas Police Department. “We were trying to prepare our residents to be ready for this worst-case scenario. And that moment, unfortunately, has arrived,” he said.

Alejo has already reached out to Governor Newsom and the White House, as well as local and state legislators. “When you have flooding, people cannot just return to their homes because water creates a lot of damage,” Alejo said. “Moisture creates a risk of health hazards such as mold. And so we know that we're going to need to provide alternative housing in the long run for these residents.”

He also said emergency staff is predicting another major atmospheric storm on Tuesday, meaning that the evacuation and the the flooding of Pajaro River is likely to continue for several days.

Jonathan Linden, a reporter for KAZU in Monterey County said he drove into town on Salinas Road at 2 a.m. When he attempted to drive back the same way less than an hour later, it was submerged in water.

"A county spokesperson told me the entire town is under some level of water, but we can't say exactly how much," said Linden in an interview with KQED.

Linden said he also spoke with residents on the Watsonville side of the river which hasn’t flooded. Many residents there had evacuated their homes in the middle of the night, and many had slept in their cars.

One family he spoke to spent the night in their car because they couldn’t afford a motel and didn’t want to stay in a shelter. Linden said most of the residents he spoke with are concerned about their homes.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, North Monterey County Fire, and CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) said in a statement on March 11, that they are currently assisting community members who did not evacuate earlier.

The California National Guard said they conducted 56 rescues of people who were stranded by the flooding throughout the night.

Up-to-date road closures and evacuation maps can be found here.

Residents in the evacuation zone in need of help should call 9-1-1 immediately. Residents who have already evacuated may call 2-1-1 for information and referrals to disaster relief organizations

Evacuation Shelters

Closest evacuation shelter to the community of Pajaro is the Santa Cruz Fairground.

The Santa Cruz County Fairground
2061 E. Lake Blvd, Watsonville

Compass Church
10325 S. Main Street

Temporary Evacuation Center
Prunedale Library, 17822 Moro Rd.

This story was reported with help from the KAZU News team.