Weathering the Extremes

Today’s flooding in San Jose made national news, so I’ve put together a brief post to let my friends know that my family is safe and dry. [drone footage, no audio below]

We’ve had a reversal of fortunes so to speak, replacing six years of drought with one of the wettest winters in recent memory. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for nearly fifty years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.

As our reservoirs reached capacity in early January, we let out a collective sigh. The drought could now be viewed from the rear-view mirror.

It kept raining. Then it rained some more. Powerful, drenching, atmospheric river styled storms, up and down the state. We had brief days of dry weather, followed by more intense storms.

Mountainous regions about twenty miles south had two or three times the rainfall. Nearly 50,000 commuters travel the mountainous corridor daily between Santa Cruz and San Jose. Trees and slopes, barely hanging on after so many years of drought were suddenly deluged with water. This  led to collapsed roads, devastating mudslides, falling trees and sinkholes. Flooded roads and lane closures have been a daily occurrence now for weeks.

To our north, friends in Oroville have been dealing with a failed spillway.  The Oroville Spillway serves America’s tallest dam. During a recent storm, a section the size of multiple football fields failed, sending water gushing off the sides and threatening homes along the Feather River below. At one point, over 180,000 people evacuated fearing the river would overflow, flooding homes and businesses along its path.  My friend Barbara lives just above the Feather River, and has written her personal account Vegan Above The Flood Plane on her blog AtFiftySomething.

Over the weekend, we’ve been closely monitoring the Anderson Reservoir, the largest in Silicon Valley. Due to seismic concerns, officials prefer to keep the reservoir at 68% of capacity. It reached 103% over the weekend, and continued to fill with today’s rains.

I don’t know why San Jose didn’t order a mandatory evacuation. All the signs were there. I checked notifications from my couch all day, as I’m home recovering from a stomach virus. Then the worst happened. The water overflowed the banks along the river, forcing emergency evacuations. Footage shows fire fighters in neck-high water bringing residences to safety.  The water is filthy, contaminated with everything in its path. Folks living in homeless encampments had to be rescued from trees. Heartbreaking.

I’ve never been so grateful for a warm, safe, dry home. As soon as I’m well, I’ll be off this couch, finding a way to pay it forward. Our community has already rallied. This rain-loving gardener has never been so happy to see a few days of sun in the forecast. I’ll share more as the news unfolds.

58 thoughts on “Weathering the Extremes

  1. That is an amazing amount of water. The news of the Oroville Spillway reached us here in Melbourne, probably because of the dramatic footage. I am glad that you are safe and dry, but pity those who are not. Our world is so stressed at the moment and these catastrophes keep hitting us in the face. Fortunately there are people like you who drop everything to help others. Hugs to you.

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    • Anne, it is an amazing amount of water. And for those of us who’ve conserved for so long, it’s extraordinary to see what happens when we get too much of a good thing. One of the newscasters mentioned over the weekend that it was hard for him to watch so much of the water go to waste. We’re living in extremes. I know you’ve struggled with drought years there as well. Do you ever see the opposite as we have?

      I agree, the footage from Oroville is stunning.

      Thanks for your kind words and for the hugs across the miles. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been watching your city on the news. We have areas here where there is flooding and mudslides. We had the wettest February on record for Portland as of today and we still have 7 days left to go well over the records. We do get some dry this weekend. Then more rain right through the first week of March. I’m glad you are safe and dry. We have a large homeless population here too. There has to be a way to deal with it. Utah did it. I don’t want to get started here. Thanks for the update. Stay dry. 😉

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  3. Flooding is always so awful when it occurs, and then there is all the cleaning up after as well. Glad you are high and dry Alys. And hope you are back on your feet again soon too.

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  4. Yes, this wind, rain and flooding is nothing I’ve ever seen before. The photos of the damage at Hollister’s cemetary was unbelievable. Also thankful to have a warm home and thinking about how awful for homeless people. Hope you feel better soon, Alys. ♡, Maria

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    • Maria, I didn’t see the news of the Hollister cemetery. How sad. It’s been bad up and down our beautiful state. It’s hard to imagine what the clean up will cost and the time involved in shoring up damaged spillways, roads, mountainsides and the like. I feel fortunate to live in this bubble. I wish I could extend one loving, warm arm out toward everyone.

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  5. We saw the flooding and were grateful to be comparatively dry…. I hope you and your friends and family continue to be safe and dry, and that those less lucky come through it without further risk to life and property.

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    • Thank you, Kate. It’s been remarkable to note that there was no loss of life due to these floods. It’s been devastating for the people displaced. They evacuated 14,000 at the high point, but many have been able to return. Others are still in shelters waiting for the waters to recede. They are encouraging us to simply donate monetarily for now. It never seems like enough, does it, when others are suffering? It’s colder and dry here today and tomorrow, with storms returning this weekend and more possible flooding on Saturday. Fingers crossed…which is a useless gesture, but so it seems is everything else, too.

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  6. Thank you for the update Alys. We sure do live in interesting times and it seems there is nothing to lean on anymore except the certainty of change. It makes me appreciate every good thing that happens and hopefully I’ll eventually stop taking things for granted. 🙂 I’m glad you are safe and hope your health is returned to you fully. I shall look forward to an update as soon as you are able. Sending love and hugs xoxo

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    • Thank you, Pauline. I think it’s human nature to take things for granted. It takes a certain daily mindfulness to remind ourselves again and again that we have much to be grateful for. My health is gradually returning. I’m surprised it is going so slowly though. The worst of it has passed, but my energy is slow to return. I need to give it a few more days. Thanks for your love and hugs. xoxo

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  7. Jeez–I just saw this and now I need another reassurance that you’re okay because I saw headlines this morning that now, finally, San Jose is evacuating and admitting they waited too long. Please tell me you’re all okay!

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    • Thank you, Kerry. We’re a few miles from the flooded area and we are doing well. I watched the weather alerts all day Tuesday, so I can’t fathom the delay in evacuating. When you’re removing people in boats from waist high water, you’ve waited far too long. It’s devastating to see this kind of destruction so close to home. We all want to help, but for now they are asking people to stay away and make monetary donations to one of four organizations. Animal groups are keeping there eye out for horses trapped in flooded water, but determined it would be more dangerous to move them since the underflow is so dangerous. Poor things. Not loss of life, people in shelters and a huge outpouring of support. Let’s hope it translates into real and continued support in the way of temporary housing, mental health support, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the update hon. I’m relieved to know you and your family remain safe and dry. You’re right, ‘a reversal of fortunes’ ! Just crazy how it can rain so much after so little. By the look of the video, it appears like the water was concentrating in one area with cars parked on roads just a couple of blocks away. Is that right? I worry about a similar scenario here too. Fingers crossed. Bless your heart for planning to volunteer in the recovery. I’m certain there’ll be plenty to do. Feel better (( Alys )) xo K

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    • Thank you, Boomdee. It’s dry and sunny today and tomorrow and about ten degrees cooler. Then the rains return for another three days of storms. I remember you mentioning that your garage was in a flood zone. Is it more likely to breach from storms or from rapid snow melt? What are the sandbag protocols? I know some communities here have regular issues with flooding, but not to this degree.

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      • Chances are, the sandbags would have to be ordered and placed by the city, I’m reallly not certain. The garage floor gets an inch or so during rain storms and in spring thaw. Not the whole garage, just the side I park on, LOL of course. We might be able to put a bumper or something just outside the big door or just put up with it. Jim squeegee’s it out into the alley fairly quickly. We’ve places all items on pallets (free) so nothing sits on the floor, it’s not pretty but it’s functional.

        How’s the situation cleaning up in San Jose? xox

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    • Thank you, Sheryl. It took about a week (which surprised me) but I’m feeling fine now. We were able to volunteer today for one of the park clean-ups. There is so much work to be done, so many stories. I’m going to try to put a post together this week.

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  9. As much footage of flooding that I’ve seen in my own part of the world and around the world, that drone footage really brought home what San Jose has been dealing with.
    You are so right: a true reversal of fortune …. from drought to happiness with rain to relief to fear.
    Glad you are feeling better and hopefully Mike is, too!
    (trying to catch up on WP today … I’m way behind!)

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    • I’m behind now, too. I volunteered for a few hours today at Kelley Park. The water flowed from the creek, across the park, into the Japanese Tea Garden and tea house and partly up the hill. What a mess.

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  10. Keep safe – as a flood victim myself reading your post brought back memories of our fateful day – water in such quantities has no boundaries and is such a force it will damage anything in its path. When our cottage flooded the water had ripped out a concrete bridge and torn up the road to one of the farms above us. Hope you will feel better soon x

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    • Thank you. The stomach virus is gone, and I’ve been able to do a bit of flood-related volunteering over these past few days. I remember when you first posted photos of your flood damage. You’re so right: it’s relentless. I hope you are doing well.

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