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HomeUSShocking Before-After Satellite Photos Show California Cities Swallowed by Floods

Shocking Before-After Satellite Photos Show California Cities Swallowed by Floods


As another storm brings rain to a sodden state, new photos show the effect of flooding in two of California’s hardest-hit communities.

A levee failure on the Pajaro River in Monterey County caused massive flooding and prompted hundreds of evacuations and dozens of water rescues.

The levee, three miles upriver from the town of Pajaro, breached on the night of March 10, said Nicholas Pasculli, a Monterey County spokesman. Patrols noticed water “bubbling over adjacent farmland” at 11 pm, the first sign that there was a problem.

Pajaro, a farming town of about 3,000 people, saw hundreds displaced by the floods and shelters filled up. Volunteers went to work there and in nearby Watsonville to help those in need.

The image below shows what Pajaro and the surrounding fields looked like before and after the flood. On March 15, brown flood water inundates a large swath of land.

Authorities had known for a long time that the area could be flooded, but plans to fix the levee never came to fruition.

“It’s a low-income area. It’s mostly farm workers that live in the town of Pájaro,” Stu Townsley, US Army Corps of Engineers assistant district engineer for project management for the San Francisco region, told The Times. “So you basically get the construction costs of the Bay Area, but the value of the property is not as high.”

The area was marginalized for a long time. In a tour of Pajaro, Governor Gavin Newsom said that “Historically, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors never paid attention to Pajaro. And that was intentional.”

Two hundred miles away in central California, the larger city of Porterville also experienced severe flooding.

Residents on both sides of the Tule River were ordered to evacuate last week when levels rose at Lake Success, sending water over the spillway at Schafer Dam.

The photos below, taken 10 days apart, show what happened after Success Lake swelled, sending sediment-rich brown water into the Tule River, which overflowed in low-lying areas.

Johanna Morales, 32, waded through waist-deep water last week with members of her family in a desperate attempt to salvage what they could of their rental home near the Tule River in Porterville.

Considering what her next steps might be, she burst into tears and looked at her children, who were waiting in a truck down the street. “I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Times staff writers Ruben Vives, Susanne Rust, Brittny Mejia, Hayley Smith and Liam Dillon contributed to this report.

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