.California Conservation Corps Provide Much Needed Relief to South Valley

South County escapes latest storm with widespread flooding, minimal damage

As the latest in a line of strong storms was bearing down on the Central Coast this week, the California Conservation Corps sent two crews to Morgan Hill to help fill and distribute sandbags for local residents and property owners.

The crews—out of Fresno and San Luis Obispo—were busy Jan. 10 at the El Toro Fire Station on Old Monterey Road running a sandbag assembly line. Each time a local resident pulled up in need of flood protection, CCC workers handed off filled sandbags down the line up to the vehicle’s trunk or bed—without the recipient even having to lift a finger. 

At another sand pile at the fire station—which has become a regular sandbag station during inclement weather—CCC members were filing empty burlap sacks with material using a rack designed to make the process easier with multiple helpers. 

During a 30-minute period Jan. 10, at least a dozen cars pulled up for sandbags, as the rain had let up from early morning downpours to a light drizzle.

At the request of Santa Clara County and Valley Water authorities, the CCC sent the crews—a total of 23 workers—to Morgan Hill as it had been identified as an area in need of assistance during the storms.

CCC Public Information Officer Chris Van Horne said the request for the Corps’ help initially came from Valley Water through county officials, who went to the California Office of Emergency Services. The state OES dispatched the two crews from CCC—one of which arrived Jan. 9. Another crew was in Palo Alto doing storm assistance, and made it to Morgan Hill on the morning of Jan. 10.

Van Horne expected the crews to be helping Morgan Hill with sandbags at least through the evening. 

The CCC, a state-run agency, is a youth work development program, primarily for people age 18-25. The Corps has about 1,600 members statewide who receive training and respond to natural disasters and assist with other natural resources projects, Van Horne explained.

The latest weather forecast might not include sunny skies, but some relief from the heavy downpours that have been characteristic of recent storms over South Valley might be on the way. 

After the latest atmospheric river on Jan. 10 cleared the region there will be an “unsettled pattern” for a couple of days, National Weather Service Meteorologist Sean Miller said. Jan. 11-12 will see chances of rain from Morgan Hill through Gilroy to Hollister, with precipitation projections less than .25 inch. 

Then, starting Jan. 13 and lasting through the weekend will be the “next stronger weather system,” Miller said. “It’s not looking on the order of what we just had (but) some areas could see a half inch to an inch of rain, or more.” 

That storm will likely last through Jan. 15, which marks the end of Miller’s Jan. 10 forecast period. 

Temperatures through Jan. 15 will be somewhat normal for the season, with highs in the upper 50s to 60, and lows in the upper 40s to lower 50s, Miller said. 

Although the latest storm in Morgan Hill on Jan. 9-10, was one of the strongest of the season so far, city officials said no significant damage or incidents were reported despite widespread local flooding on waterlogged creek banks and roadways. 

Still, public works crews and officers were busy placing signs and barricades at flooded roads throughout town. Scattered power outages occurred, with some cutting off traffic signals at roadway intersections. At times during the latest storm, statewide more than 80,000 PG&E customers were without power. 

The morning of Jan. 9, Morgan Hill was “experiencing significant flooding,” especially around Little Llagas and Fisher Creeks, according to an email newsletter from city staff. Much of the flooding was concentrated west of Monterey Road. 

Highway 101 in Gilroy was shut down for several hours the afternoon of Jan. 9 because of flooding. Highway 25 south of Gilroy was reportedly briefly closed as well. 

“City teammates are continuously working to clear storm drains and debris and collaborating with Valley Water to minimize the impact on our community members with a concentrated concern for our vulnerable populations and high-flooding risk areas,” read a Jan newsletter from the city of Morgan Hill.

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