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Nearly two weeks after flooding, Pajaro residents return home

Jonathan Linden
Pajaro residents line up at Pajaro Park on March 23, where Monterey County and the American Red Cross gave out bottled water, food, and other supplies.

Pajaro residents were able to return home on Thursday. It's the first glimpse residents are getting of their homes nearly two weeks after they flooded.

For nearly two weeks, Pajaro residents stayed in shelters, motels, or their cars, as flood waters slowly receded from their homes. The community of about 3,000 people was evacuated, after a levee breach flooded the town on March 11.

County and state crews have cleaned up the roads and assessed buildings for damage and hazards. Now, those residents are returning home to take stock of their belongings and the work ahead.

“We have to clean up everything,” said Cielo Martinez, a Pajaro resident. “It's really sad.”

Martinez says her home was damaged, as well as the furniture and clothes inside.

Ezequiel Garcia, another Pajaro resident, says the structure of his home wasn’t damaged in the flood, but he left behind food when he evacuated about 12 days ago.

“It was really smelly…a couple things went bad,” he said.

The county re-opened Pajaro a day earlier than they expected. The tap water is still unsafe to drink, and the town’s sewer system is still offline, though county officials say it should be fixed by Friday. The county provided restrooms, showers and laundry services for returning residents.

Groups like the American Red Cross are handing out supplies like bottled water, gloves, and bleach to help flood victims get back on their feet.

Even with the tough work ahead, Cielo Martinez says she’s looking forward to getting her home back.

We mostly like our home. We get to sleep in our rooms and our space,” she said

The county is urging residents to avoid fully moving back until hazards like mold are cleaned up, and water and sewer are back online.

This story was reported with help from the KAZU's Jerimiah Oetting.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 90.3 KAZU in Seaside, Calif. He served at the station from Oct. 2022 to July 2023.