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National

Thousands Forced To Evacuate Amid Floods In San Jose, Calif.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Floods in San Jose, Calif., forced 14,000 people to flee their homes earlier this week. Four-thousand are still under mandatory evacuation, and city officials are asking whether they should have moved more quickly. KQED's Peter Jon Shuler reports on the situation in San Jose.

PETER JON SHULER, BYLINE: San Jose officials are focusing attention on the neighborhoods hit hardest by the disaster. In the Rock Springs neighborhood where floodwaters reached to the top of cars and drenched first-floor apartments on Tuesday, crews are spraying down muck-covered streets and sidewalks. Assistant City Manager David Sykes...

DAVID SYKES: You know, we've moved from managing the incident to really the process of re-entry and recovery. And so we're working as hard as we can to make sure that we can get people into their homes in a safe manner.

SHULER: But that's proving harder to do.

SUE EVANICKY: It's really muddy. I have a sunken living room, and it's just full of mud.

SHULER: In a neighborhood of single-family homes about two miles away, residents like Sue Evanicky are shocked by what they find.

EVANICKY: It was really heartbreaking when I came home and the water was up to my knees. And it was just heartbreaking.

SHULER: Flooding along Coyote Creek came after a series of heavy rainstorms combined with water rushing down the spillway of an overflowing reservoir. Officials like San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo are still trying to sort out why they failed to anticipate the extent of the flooding and didn't evacuate residents until rapidly rising floodwaters were already rushing into neighborhoods.

SAM LICCARDO: There was a failure here. There was a failure in the information that we were relying on. There was also a failure in communicating to residents. And we need to get all the facts out before we can really understand how to fix it.

SHULER: The city is opening up a long-term shelter for residents still displaced by the flood as more rain is predicted this weekend. For NPR News, I'm Peter Jon Shuler in San Jose, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.