CARMEL (KPIX 5) — Major clean up was underway Thursday in the Carmel Lagoon area after a rain-swollen river spilled into the neighborhood, flooding multiple homes.
About a dozen residences were damaged, with some of the houses getting as much as a foot or two of water inside.READ MORE: COVID Reopening: Santa Clara County Indoor Dining, Gyms Open For 1st Time Since December After Shift To Red Tier
While the flood waters receded within a few hours, on Thursday evening residents were trying to dry out and assess the damage after being inundated by floodwaters from the nearby oceanside lagoon.
A flood warning had been issued earlier, but at 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office ordered mandatory evacuations for residents in the Carmel River Lagoon area, including all roads south of Santa Lucia Avenue and Mission Fields.
County officials told residents to leave the area immediately.
“Homes are being flooded as Carmel River flow backs up at the Carmel Lagoon near Carmel River State Beach,” officials said.
The natural sand levee that was holding back the Carmel River has breached (naturally). Water is now rushing out of Carmel Lagoon. Unfortunately, the water backed up quite high before the breach so homes were affected. #CAwx @NWSBayArea pic.twitter.com/7p6b83fgIi
— Brian Emfinger (@brianemfinger) January 28, 2021
“She says, ‘There’s two men at the front door and they want us to get in a boat and go to safety,'” explained resident John Hammerland, describing being woken by wife Thursday morning as rapidly rising floodwaters threatened their house.
Hammerland told KPIX 5 the floodwaters had climbed his driveway and crept into the garage and were coming perilously close to the house itself.
“It came within six or seven inches of this here — our deck, our house,” say Hammerland.
Luckily, Hammerland says the floodwaters began to recede before they reached the inside of his home of 38 years.
His neighbors were not. Cal Fire estimates about a dozen homes near the lagoon suffered water damage during the morning flooding.READ MORE: COVID: Swollen Lymph Nodes After Vaccination Could Lead To False Breast Cancer Diagnosis, UCSF Doctors Say
“Some of the worst damage that we saw was in one of the homes closer to the lagoon. They got somewhere near a foot or two in the residence itself,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Silveira.
Neighbors say the area is flood prone. They explained that heavy rains fill the Carmel River, which flows into the lagoon. A sandbar or earthen levee prevents the river from directly emptying into the ocean, which can cause problems after days of heavy rain.
“Hopefully nothing got ruined too much,” said Sue Wulfmeyer who lives about a block away on higher ground.
The county eventually opened a hole in the sandbar, allowing the lagoon to drain into the ocean and removing the threat of flooding.
The residents impacted by the flooding will be cleaning up after the mess left behind for days to come.
The rains from the atmospheric river have been causing havoc in Monterey County since Wednesday. The heavy rain on areas scarred by last fall’s Carmel, River and Dolan wildfires triggered multiple mudslides in the county.
Monterey County Fire officials described the damage to multiple homes from the debris flow incidents overnight as moderate to severe.
“A few residents in their vehicles had been trapped in a mudslide, so they were able to get out. But as we discovered in the neighborhoods, some homes between 20 and 25 residences and outbuildings had been at least partially damaged by the mudflow,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Dorothy Priolo.
Caltrans has shut down Highway 1 along the Big Sur coastline . The highway closure took effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday between Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County and Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn in Monterey County and will remain in effect until at least Friday.
A Facebook post by the CHP’s Monterey office showed how bad some of the damage from the storm was, revealing a complete washout of Highway 1 at Mile Marker 30 near Big Creek Bridge.
“Please continue to exercise extreme caution on rural roads, especially at night,” the post read.
Caltrans later confirmed that Highway 1 will remain closed to through traffic until further notice. Caltrans crews will begin damage assessment, cleanup and repairs early Friday morning.MORE NEWS: Basketball Star Jeremy Lin Speaks Out About Attacks On Asian Americans, Racism On Court