Failure in the Pajaro River levee triples a few hours after the arrival of a new atmospheric river in Monterey County

Failure in the Pajaro River levee triples a few hours after the arrival of a new atmospheric river
Failure in the Pajaro River levee triples a few hours after the arrival of a new atmospheric river
Khushbu Kumari

The break in the Pajaro River levee grew from 100 feet to more than 300 feet, when more rain is expected in the next few days; Monterey County officials are monitoring other sections of the levee for possible breaches

The fault in a Pajaro River levee tripled, from 100 feet wide to more than 300 feet , within hours of a new atmospheric river laden with heavy rains reaching Monterey County.

This Monday, the work crews were intensely engaged in repairing the damage.

Crews have worked around the clock since the levee breached Friday night , but the breach has tripled in size, county officials said.

The current of the Pajaro River swelled with rainwater flowing downstream and the community of Pajaro is inundated.

“This is going to get worse before it gets better,” Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo told KRON4 on Monday.

Weather forecasts indicate that a new atmospheric river will hit the agricultural region during Monday night or early Tuesday morning , so county officials are constantly monitoring the Pajaro River levee for possible breaks that could increase flooding.

“Emergency temporary repair work is underway to stabilize the fault. Flood waters are moving through the community and to the south. Residents who have not left the area are still encouraged to do so," the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services said.

High water levels in the Pajaro River are complicating the jobs of crews trying to repair the fault in the levee. Roads were built to transport large rocks that are used to fill the space when building a temporary wall.

As the levee breached on the Pajaro River, thousands of residents had to be evacuated over the weekend as farmland and surrounding neighborhoods flooded .

Supervisor Alejo reported that hundreds of residents, many of them without large belongings, were placed in shelters.

On Friday, many residents followed authorities' instructions to evacuate due to the risk of flooding, but some others decided to stay in their homes. Dozens of victims were rescued Saturday by emergency services and the California National Guard. No injuries or deaths were reported.

Most of those affected were reported to be low-income Hispanic immigrants and farmworkers. Some of the evacuees will not be able to return to their homes for several weeks .

Warning signs went off on the Pajaro River levees during the strong winter storms of January. Rivers flowing through four counties join downstream at the Pajaro River before emptying into the ocean.

The Pajaro River levee system was built in the late 1940s. Reconstruction is scheduled for 2025, with an estimated investment of $400 million .

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