Pajaro residents grow weary of waiting
Thousands of Pajaro residents are still waiting to hear when they can return home and begin rebuilding their lives.
Pajaro resident Leonardo Torres doesn’t know when life will start feeling normal again.
“I don't know how long this is going to take,” he said.
Torres stayed behind in Pajaro, despite evacuation orders. He says he can’t afford a hotel, and felt unsafe at a crowded shelter because he’s immunocompromised.
Now, like others who stayed behind, he’s stuck in Pajaro.
Between those who evacuated and those who stayed behind is the Pajaro River bridge, which leads between Pajaro and Watsonville. Residents can leave Pajaro, but the county’s roadblock will prevent them from returning. Torres said he and others who feel it is unsafe or unaffordable to leave are stuck in Pajaro.
“This is not right for many of us,” he said. “It's an injustice, I think, for this community.”
Monterey County spokesperson Nicholas Pascuilli says officials are working hard to ensure things are safe before residents return.
“We have to keep this a little bit flexible,” Pasculli said of the timeline. ”We are following all the state and federal guidelines for reentry and repopulation”
An initial survey showed hundreds of homes were damaged by the flood. Three homes were destroyed.
The county’s public works department is fixing roads and other infrastructure, including a damaged sewer line. The town is currently without sewer service.
Then there’s all the potential health risks — mold, tainted drinking water, chemical contaminants. The Monterey County Department of Environmental Health needs to screen homes for anything that could harm returning residents.
“The mud and the floodwaters, it's not clean,” said Ric Encarnacion, the assistant director of the environmental health department.
Pasculli says the county is making progress. But as of Monday, residents still do not know when they can go home.
“It's really tough for many of us,” said Torres. “But mostly the people who have to go to work, they have to go to school. And we're stuck here.”
There is a townhall at the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, where the county says it will provide more updates to flood victims.