Hundreds Rescued as ‘Unprecedented’ Storm Causes $7 Million in Damages to San Diego

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Hundreds Rescued as ‘Unprecedented’ Storm Causes $7 Million in Damages to San Diego

A person stands near a vehicle moved by flooding that remains lodged on a fence the day after an explosive rainstorm deluged areas in San Diego on Jan. 23, 2024. The intense rains forced dozens of rescues while flooding roadways and homes and knocking out electricity for thousands of residents. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

1/23/2024

Updated: 1/24/2024

San Diego residents spent Jan. 23 mopping up and recovering the day after a record-breaking storm slammed the Southern California city with torrential rain and flash flooding.
“Luckily, we saw very few injuries and no fatalities,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell told reporters during an afternoon press conference. “For a storm this size, that was simply remarkable.”
The fire chief said his department responded to about 100 rescues in the Southcrest neighborhood, among the worst areas hit by flooding Monday.
More than 30 animals were also rescued, and the fire department responded to over 900 incidents, according to Mr. Stowell.
Lifeguards also reported making over 50 rescues along riverbanks and streets.
Other southeast communities most affected by the storm were Mountain View, Encanto, Logan Heights, and San Ysidro, according to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
City, county, and state officials declared emergencies after widespread flooding caused by a heavy rainstorm swept away cars and damaged buildings and homes. Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for San Diego and Ventura counties to support storm recovery. The declarations will help residents get unemployment benefits and provide resources for local governments.
According to city estimates, the storm caused between $6 million and $7 million in damage to city infrastructure.
While the National Weather Service office in San Diego had forecast a rainstorm, the city was surprised by the severity, Mr. Gloria said.
On Monday, San Diego experienced its wettest day since 1875, reaching a new record of 2.73 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Oceanside, about 40 miles north of San Diego, broke a 1910 record, receiving 2.1 inches.
The amount of water received in about three hours was “unprecedented” and overwhelmed the city’s storm drainage system, according to city officials.
“The damage and the impact was absolutely devastating,” Mr. Gloria said during the news conference. “In fact, it’s heartbreaking. We saw entire lives changed in just a few minutes.”
Family members clean mud from a home damaged by flooding, with the floodwater line visible on the house, the day after an explosive rainstorm deluged areas in San Diego on Jan. 23, 2024. The intense rains forced dozens of rescues while flooding roadways and homes and knocking out electricity for thousands of residents. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Family members clean mud from a home damaged by flooding, with the floodwater line visible on the house, the day after an explosive rainstorm deluged areas in San Diego on Jan. 23, 2024. The intense rains forced dozens of rescues while flooding roadways and homes and knocking out electricity for thousands of residents. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The mayor visited flooded neighborhoods Tuesday where flood waters reached the ceilings of homes in some cases, he said.
The city considered the event a “1,000-year storm,” according to Kris McFadden, San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer. Two of the city’s storm pump stations lost power but were expected to be repaired by the end of Tuesday.
The mayor said he planned to talk to the National Weather Service about why the local forecast didn’t predict the amount of rain delivered by the atmospheric river storm system.
“We will need to talk to the [weather service] about why what was forecasted and what happened were two very different things,” Mr. Gloria said.
Videos shared on social media by local residents showed cars piled on top of each other and being swept away and streets flooded across the city.
Several feet of water flooded the Mountain View, Shelltown, and Southcrest neighborhoods, and multiple highways, including Interstate 15.
Some residents on Beta Street in the Southcrest neighborhood, south of downtown, were rescued from their flooded homes. First responders used inflatable boats and rescue equipment to reach the residents as some waited on their roofs for help, according to Fox 5 News.
“Hundreds of people have been rescued from homes and flooded areas,” the city said in a news release.
A woman examines cars damaged from floods during a rain storm, in San Diego on Jan. 22, 2024. (Denis Poroy/AP Photo)

A woman examines cars damaged from floods during a rain storm, in San Diego on Jan. 22, 2024. (Denis Poroy/AP Photo)

Resident and business owner Eddie Ochoa told The Associated Press he and his sister went out for breakfast Monday morning and returned to the family’s auto body shop an hour later to find the shop flooded and his sister’s car washed away.
“All that happened within an hour,” Mr. Ochoa told the wire service. “It’s never been that bad, ever. It’s crazy.”
A worker at one flooring business called Techniquex helped rescue drivers stuck in the rising water.
“While on the job site, Senior Superintendent Cesar Franco utilized his work truck to rescue multiple vehicles submerged in the San Diego Floods, earning him praise from nearby tenants,” the company posted on X, formerly Twitter Monday.
Several roads remained closed Tuesday in the city. The Red Cross opened an overnight shelter in San Diego, and the surrounding cities of El Cajon, and Coronado, for storm victims. The organization also offered food and rest for anyone in the community that needed it.
The city also opened a temporary shelter at the Balboa Park Activity Center, a multi-purpose gymnasium, for homeless people who were evacuated from the city’s two homeless shelter locations due to flooding.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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