Declining flood levels prompt Monterey County to suspend more evacuations


Amidst a dry start to the weekend, Monterey County officials on Saturday lifted more evacuation orders in inland regions, where flooding conditions from an atmospheric storm on the river earlier in the week have driven tens of thousands of people to their homes. houses.

Residents living in various evacuation zones toward the northern areas of the county have been cleared to return, including in the former sugar town of Spreckels, south of Highway 68.

With forecasters expecting low rain totals over the weekend ahead of wetter weather on Monday, county officials said flood levels on the Salinas River are actively decreasing.

Still, about 200 miles of Highway 1 — much of it along the Big Sur coast, a favorite with tourists — remains closed, from historic Deetjen’s Inn to Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County. The road is expected to remain closed until the end of the week.

And meanwhile, a homecoming is yet to appear on the horizon for thousands of farmworkers in the Pajaro Valley, a three-square-mile community where last week a failed dam caused more than 800 homes to be flooded by murky water.

Adrian Arias fills buckets of water to use in the bathroom at his home in Pajaro, Calif., on Thursday, March. January 16, 2023. The flood did not reach Arias’ house, he said. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

In addition to contaminated silt, mud and flooding, homes could also be subject to severe structural damage that would make re-entry unsafe, Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Keith Boyd said earlier in the week.

Through Saturday, more than $101,000 had been raised by a GoFundMe campaign to help farm workers, who said in interviews they felt neglected by the state’s emergency response.

The mixed messages from the state did nothing to calm nerves. United Way, the state agency that coordinates relief efforts, told this news organization on Thursday that just over $300,000 would be made available to displaced workers – far less than US Governor Gavin Newsom’s pledge $42 million.

Maria Ramos, a women’s rights advocate in Santa Cruz County who started the GoFundMe page, wrote that after continuing to work during the pandemic and amid devastating wildfire seasons, the community of farm workers in Pajaro was “abandoned more once”.

“They are cold, hungry, homeless and living in terror for an uncertain future,” wrote Ramos on the campaign page. “How much more can they take?”

Staff writer Aldo Toledo contributed to this report.

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