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Gilroy
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February 4, 2023

South Valley families recover as flood losses mount

GoFundMe pages describe damage, devastation from recent storms

The weather forecast is finally calling for a noteworthy dry spell in Gilroy, but dozens of local people and businesses are still recovering from flood damage and other property losses resulting from the last several weeks of drenching storms in South Valley. 

In recent days, a number of fundraising campaigns have been posted on the website GoFundMe.com by storm victims who suffered losses in southern Santa Clara County and northern San Benito County.

One of those was posted by Maria Morales, whose home and 15-acre farm near the Highway 101/25 interchange in Gilroy was flooded and destroyed after the nearby Uvas Creek swelled over its banks on Jan. 9, forcing the highway to shut down for hours.

In the campaign posting, titled “Maria Morales Farm Destroyed During CA Floods,” Morales, who has so far raised nearly $28,000, said she and her family had left their farm to go get gas for their truck.

“Shortly after departing, I received a call from my nephew that our house and the surrounding areas were flooding,” Morales wrote. “Within 30 minutes and without any warning, our entire home was flooded almost to the ceiling of the first floor with water and debris.”

Morales and her husband Juan have been running the mixed vegetable and berry operation, JM Farmers Organic, on the property since 2016, according to the GoFundMe campaign, which can be viewed at tinyurl.com/45437ccj.

GoFundMe West Coast Regional Spokesperson Nicole Santos on Jan. 17 sent out a list of fundraising campaigns on the platform. The list includes seven campaigns posted by local families—many of them affected by the Jan. 9 deluge of Lovers Lane near the Santa Clara/San Benito county line, from which 23 people and 16 animals were rescued by county public safety authorities. 

One of the campaigns is titled “Hollister family lost Lovers Lane rental home,” and was started by a friend of the impacted family, identified as Claudia, Willie, daughter Audree and dog Irene. “They are not only displaced, but have lost nearly everything they had prepared for their baby due at the end of February,” says the campaign on GoFundMe.com. 

“Claudia described a water level that rose from ankle-deep to waist-deep within one minute,” reads the fundraising site. “Claudia, who is currently 8 months pregnant, had to wade through waist-deep water while holding their family dog to escape her rapidly flooding home and neighborhood.”

The campaign, found on GoFundMe at tinyurl.com/2jw3znrf, is asking for funds to replace some of the family’s lost items. 

Another fundraising campaign describes a small commercial organic farm on Lovers Lane that suffered heavy losses during the Jan. 9 storm. Titled “Catalan Family Farm Emergency Flood Aid 2023,” the campaign is seeking funds to make repairs to damaged farm equipment and structures.

“It is estimated that 75% of crops are deemed a loss, inventory of harvests left in bins were lost, trash and debris spread throughout the farm, my trailer home was destroyed, tractors and equipment spent some time underwater and we are still unsure the extent of the damage,” says the fundraising page. “This loss is too much to endure but with the help of our community, we hope to move on and strive forward.”

That page is located on GoFundMe at tinyurl.com/4f9nskex.

Authorities issued repeated evacuation warnings for residents on Lovers Lane. Those warnings escalated to evacuation orders by the morning of Jan. 9. 

As the floodwaters rose into homes and parked vehicles, dozens of people had not left the area. Emergency responders from agencies throughout San Benito County conducted a rescue effort, bringing 23 people and 16 pets to safety, according to authorities. 

‘End in sight’

While many Gilroy residents and businesses are still drying out from nearly constant rainfall in recent weeks, the latest weather forecast is finally calling for a noteworthy dry spell for the area. 

According to a Jan. 17 forecast by the National Weather Service, the skies over Gilroy will finally clear up by this weekend and for the foreseeable future. 

“Fortunately, there is an end in sight to the recent deluges we’ve been having,” NWS Meteorologist Jeff Lorber said. 

The forecast includes “one more storm” rolling into the Bay Area and South Valley Wednesday night, Lorber said. That storm will bring lighter rainfall than recent storms, with between one-tenth and two-tenths of an inch of rain. The storm should move out by Thursday morning, Jan. 19. 

The storm will bring “some breezy winds,” and Lorber noted that hazards still exist from the possibility of trees blowing over in the soft soil that is waterlogged from near-constant rain since late December. 

After Jan. 18, South Valley will be “dry through the weekend and through at least the middle of next week,” Lorber said. Clear, sunny skies are in the forecast from Jan. 19-22. 

With the dry weather will be cooler temperatures, and weather experts are encouraging counties to reach out to homeless people and make sure they have shelter. Temperature forecasts for late this week include lows in the upper-30s—possibly dipping below freezing in some areas of South Valley Thursday night or Friday morning, Lorber said. 

Since a massive atmospheric river dumped more than 2 inches of rain on Gilroy Jan. 9-10, additional storms have dropped another 2-3 inches on local areas. More local wind advisories and flood warnings were issued over the Jan. 14-15 weekend before the latest storm finally left the region Monday. 

Residents and property owners in the Uvas Reservoir and Pacheco Pass River Basin were again given an evacuation warning on Jan. 13, for the third time in less than a week. 

Local flooding prompted road closures throughout South County. Officials declared states of emergency throughout the Bay Area and Central Coast. The weather resulted in power outages for thousands of PG&E customers up and down the state. 

Although Valley Water officials have said it is too soon to predict end-of-season water supplies, the winter rain has been a boon for local reservoirs. Coyote and Uvas reservoirs—both located in South County—were filled beyond capacity and flowing over their spillways as of Jan. 17, according to valleywater.org. Chesbro Reservoir in west Morgan Hill is at 89% of its capacity. 

Anderson Reservoir was drained to below 10% capacity by December 2022, so that crews could work on an intensive seismic retrofit of the Morgan Hill water body’s dam. However, as of Jan. 17, recent rains had filled Anderson Reservoir to nearly 44% of its capacity.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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