Receding flood levels lead Monterey County to lift more evacuations, but Highway 1 still closed
Amid a dry start to the weekend, Monterey County officials on Saturday lifted more evacuation orders in inland regions where flood conditions from an atmospheric river storm earlier in the week had driven tens of thousands from their homes.
Residents who live in a number of evacuation zones toward the county’s northern areas have been cleared to return, including in the former sugar town of Spreckels, south of Highway 68.
With meteorologists expecting low weekend rain totals ahead of a wetter weather system on Monday, county officials said flood levels at the Salinas River were actively receding.
Still, about a 200-mile stretch of Highway 1 — much of it along the Big Sur coast, a road-trip favorite among tourists — remains closed, from the historic Deetjen’s Inn to Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County. Portions of the highway are expected to remain shut down through the weekend.
And meanwhile, a return home is yet to appear on the horizon for thousands of farmworkers in the Pajaro Valley, a three-square-mile community where last week a burst levee led to more than 800 homes being swamped by turbid floodwater.
In addition to contaminated silt, mud and standing floodwater, the homes may also be subject to severe structural damage that would make it unsafe to re-enter, Monterey County Undersheriff Keith Boyd said earlier in the week.
As of Saturday, over $101,000 had been raised by a GoFundMe campaign to help the farmworkers, who have said in interviews they felt overlooked by the state’s emergency response.
The state’s mixed messaging hasn’t helped calm nerves. United Way, the state agency coordinating relief efforts, told this news organization on Thursday that just over $300,000 would be made available to the displaced workers — much less than Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise of $42 million.
Maria Ramos, a women’s rights advocate in Santa Cruz County who started the GoFundMe page, wrote that after continuing to work during the pandemic and amid devastating wildfire seasons, the farmworker community in Pajaro had been “abandoned once again.”
“They are cold, hungry, unhoused, and living in terror for an uncertain future,” Ramos wrote on the campaign page. “How much more can they endure?”
Staff writer Aldo Toledo contributed to this report.