Like any other day, 55-year-old Jose Montoya left his home March 10 around 8 a.m. to go to work in Watsonville. He made it 700 yards before he ran into a closed road and turned back. The city of San Juan Bautista had closed The Alameda from Hwy 156 to Mission Vineyard Road due to flooding.
Two hours later, he was knocking on neighbors’ doors, warning them that water had already risen about 2 feet.
Montoya, who has lived at the Mission Farm RV Park for five years, said the two neighbors he warned had been sleeping because they either work at night or late into the night.
Seeing the water continue to rise, he and his wife moved their two vehicles and his food trailer to higher ground on San Juan Hollister Road, like many of their neighbors.
Montoya said that the water rose very quickly and that he had to hook up the food trailer by simply feeling around the trailer coupler because it was already under dark brown water.
“Como es el patrimonio para uno, hemos luchado tanto para eso ni modo de dejarla perder,” Montoya said. (As it is our patrimony, we have fought so much for that, I wasn’t going to lose it.)
He said he had just bought that food trailer for his seafood business, El Guasave Sinaloa.
By 12:40 p.m., the county had issued a mandatory evacuation for the area between Hwy 156, The Alameda, San Juan Hollister Road and Mission Vineyard Road.
At around 2 p.m. he said water was already seeping into his trailer and that the last time he went back to retrieve his insulin, the water was waist-deep.
With the road closed on either end, he and his neighbors had nowhere to go and he had no plans as to where he would spend the night.
“Estamos viendo que nos dicen,” he said. “Y si no pues aqui en los carros vamos a quedarnos por lo pronto.” (We are waiting to hear from officials. If we don’t, then we are going to stay here in the cars for the time being.)
Commander Sylvestre Yerena with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department said the San Juan Creek overflowed, causing flooding in that area. He added the Hollister Fire Department helped evacuate the residents that were willing to leave their trailers to a safe area on the property.
On the Hwy 156-side of the RV park, water from a full San Juan Creek continued to spread toward the neighborhood via multiple routes.
At the same time, on The Alameda, many residents had shovels on-hand and were clearing out all the dirt that was washed out, making sure the water didn’t work its way to the property. Walking along The Alameda, there was no sign that asphalt was beneath about three inches of mud and rock.
San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds told BenitoLink there are about 150 that live in the park and some had other places to shelter. He said the city was able to obtain 30 hotel vouchers in total for Hacienda de Leal and Posada de San Juan Bautista. He said the city handed out 15 of those and expects the rest to go to the victims who are just getting home from work.
He added Graniterock will work through the night to clean up all the mud from The Alameda area.
The county also set up an emergency evacuation shelter at the San Benito County Farm Labor Association Housing Center, 3239 Southside Road in Hollister.
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