Board gets flood update with storm brewing

A driver plunges through the water on Lovers Lane. File photo by Nick Lovejoy

County supervisors received a local flooding report Tuesday during a special meeting.

Supervisors also unanimously ratified the declaration of a local emergency.
San Benito County declared a local emergency and water contamination alert on Thursday after the Lovers Lane area near Hollister flooded due to heavy rainfall. County inspection teams discovered a Pacheco Creek levee breach northeast of the bridge on Lovers Lane last Friday as well.

According to the San Benito County Office of Emergency Services, the breach is located on private property and is around 100-feet long by 50-feet deep. Additional flooding would directly threaten 20 homes.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Emergency Services Manager Kevin O’Neill reported to supervisors that another storm is expected to reach the county on Wednesday.

“The governor has not proclaimed a state of emergency for our county or any other county in the state,” O’Neill said. “However, we’re optimistic that that will be coming and with that the opportunity for the California Disaster Assistance Act, which is financial assistance to public entities such as the County of San Benito.”

O’Neill said he received word from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office that it’s sending someone to do a preliminary damage assessment in two days.

“What the local emergency does is it tells the governor that we are in a dire situation, that we are requesting assistance through funding and other resources available to the state, and that we’re going to continue to work in this direction, especially with this upcoming storm,” O’Neill said.

National Weather Service Forecaster Carolina Walbrun said 2.5 inches of rain are expected from Wednesday through Monday of next week.

“The average for Hollister in January is 2.93 inches, and the area has already received 1.87 inches,” Walbrun said in a phone interview with the Free Lance on Tuesday afternoon. “With another 2.5 inches expected, that’ll take us above the normal.”

Forty percent of California came out of a drought with the last round of rain, Walbrun said. She expects this next round to help as well.

During Tuesday’s special meeting, Supervisor Robert Rivas asked O’Neill about the extent of damage caused by flooding.

“My question is directed at the extent of the damage,” Rivas said. “If you can maybe give me an understanding in terms of dollars for our county?”

O’Neill said he doesn’t have an accurate amount yet, but spoke on damages.
“There’s still parts of Lovers Lane that as of yesterday were still underwater,” O’Neill said at the meeting. “We’re pretty confident there’s some significant damage.”

Resource Management Agency Director Brent Barnes told supervisors that while the levee break is on private property, the county is looking to assist with repairs.

“Infrastructure-wise, we have one bridge on San Felipe Road that will need to be replaced,” Barnes said. “It’s compromised; the guard rail is completely down in the creek. The bridge cannot be repaired. It needs to be replaced. It’s a small, timber bridge. There is some damage on the northerly part of San Felipe Road where a significant portion of several hundred feet of shoulder have just washed away. There’s a four-foot ditch right up to the pavement. And then it looks like about a half-mile to a mile of Lovers Lane itself will probably need to be completely replaced.”

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said the reason the county board is around is to make sure residents get needed assistance in a timely manner.

“My request would be to keep us abreast of the process going forward and what we need to do to help make sure that our residents get the assistance they need from both the state and federal sources,” Muenzer said.

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