SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As an atmospheric river began lashing San Jose with fierce winds and downpours, the city’s leaders vowed that mistakes made during a 2017 disaster will not be repeated.

San Jose’s new mayor, Matt Mahan, and assistant city manger, Lee Wilcox, said the city proclaimed a State of Emergency for the duration of the current atmospheric river weather event, and outreach teams are coordinating emergency evacuation notifications.

At a press conference held Wednesday morning, Wilcox told reporters that water officials are currently posted along “hot spots” for flooding and feeding back water level data in real-time.

San Jose’s political leaders and emergency responders acknowledged tough lessons learned when residents failed to receive evacuation warnings or orders before their neighborhoods were submerged in flood water from Coyote Creek.

“We know we have a large storm coming. I was here in 2017 as a fire captain dealing with the flood right here are Rock Spring. I know how difficult it is to be out there needing the help that we were not prepared for. But we are now,” City Council member Bien Doan told reporters gathered at the creek.

“We learned our lesson from 2017. We, as a city, are ready and prepared for this storm,” said Doan, a former captain with the San Jose Fire Department. “I ask that our residents be prepared. Don’t drive if you don’t have to.”

The historic storm on Feb. 18, 2017 breached Anderson Dam in south San Jose. Water from the dam gushed into Coyote Creek, spilled into neighborhoods, and triggered dozens of water rescues. Some residents were already standing in waist-deep water before they received their first evacuation order from emergency officials. The 2017 flood displaced 14,000 residents and caused $100 million in damages.

Floodwaters surround a home on February 22, 2017, in San Jose, California. (File Photo by NOAH BERGER /AFP via Getty Images)

Santa Clara Valley Water District, which manages parts of Coyote Creek’s watershed, has since made infrastructure improvements with aims to prevent destructive flooding.

Water levels of rivers, creeks, and streams are being more closely monitored this time, city leaders said. City officials said the “most vulnerable residents” who will be impacted are unsheltered people who live in encampments along waterways.

Floodwaters surround homes and cars on February 22, 2017 in San Jose. (File Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP via Getty Images)

“Our primary focus, given the forecast, is supporting and protecting the lives of our unhoused communities in our waterways,” Wilcox said.

Mahan said, “We want to make sure all residents are informed … and that city staff has the ability to move quickly to relocate encampments that are in harm’s way.”

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks to reporters on Jan. 4, 2023. (KRON4 image)

The Office of Emergency Management is deploying a long-range audio device to communicate the evacuation order from the Central Service Yard. The San Jose Police Department will be conducting loud speaker announcements along Coyote, Guadalupe and Penetencia creeks. 

Police wrote on Twitter, “If you are in the banks of the waterway, your life is in danger.”

Ross Creek at Cherry Avenue reached flood stage around 7 p.m., Valley Water reported.

Valley Water listed the following waterways are flooding “hot spots” around Santa Clara County:

  • Uvas Creek, with potential flooding of Highway 101 in Gilroy
  • San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto
  • Ross Creek at Cherry Avenue in San Jose
  • Upper Penitencia Creek at Mabury and King roads in San Jose
  • Guadalupe River at West Alma Avenue in San Jose
  • Sunnyvale East Channel at Tasman Drive in Sunnyvale
  • West Little Llagas Creek in Morgan Hill

The storm will pack its biggest punch for San Francisco Bay Area with a windy cold front beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, KRON4 Meteorologist John Shrable said. Shrable urged residents to stay inside, and avoid driving whenever possible.

San Jose quadrupled its number of available beds in shelters this week to help more unhoused residents get out of the storm.

The Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services wrote, “Santa Clara County Community members are encouraged to seek shelter now! Move away from waterways, creek beds, stream beds and fast moving water. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch and Wind Watch for the entire Bay Area. Soils will remain near saturated levels which means higher risk of flooding and shallow mud slides across the region. Expect rapid rises in creeks, streams, and rivers that may approach or reach flood stage. Strong winds with gusts between 35-55 mph (potentially higher in the mountains).”

Hotlines and alerts for Santa Clara County residents:

Sign up for AlertSCC by going to AlertSCC.org to receive critical information from the county when flooding is going to occur in your area.

For housed residents: Call the County of Santa Clara, Here 4 You Call Center hotline (408) 385-2400 for assistance. 

For unhoused residents: HomeFirst Homeless Helpline (408) 539-2105 or e-mail Home First Helpline to access the City of San Jose’s Overnight Warming Location (OWL) program. HomeFirst’s Outreach team provides access to emergency shelter.

Sandbag Location:

  • Mabury Yard, 1404 Mabury Road, San Jose

24-Hour Emergency Shelter:

In partnership with the City of San Jose, the American Red Cross has opened a 24-hour emergency shelter at Seven Trees Community Center (3590 Cas Drive) beginning Wednesday, January 4 at 10:00 a.m. until Monday, January 16. Individuals, families and pets are welcome, and no prior referral or reservation is needed. For more information, call 408-539-2105.

Warming Centers:

Camden Community Center (3369 Union Avenue) and Southside Community Center (5585 Cottle Road) have rooms open for visitors to keep warm during regular business hours. Overnight Warming Locations (OWLs) are available at Roosevelt Community Center (901 E. Santa Clara St.) and West Valley Branch Library (1243 San Tomas Aquino Rd.). OWLs are open nightly from 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM. Call 408-539-2105 or email owlreferrals@homefirstscc.org.