Mar 13, 2023
Floods strike northern California strawberry fields

A weekend storm flooded northern California strawberry and vegetable fields, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate their farms, homes and businesses.

The storm caused massive damage to strawberry fields and may put many growers and farmworkers out of business, according to reports.

In the northern part of California’s Central Coast, the Pajaro Valley grows strawberries as well as broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes.

According to online maps, evacuation orders and warnings stretch throughout the Salinas Valley and northward from north of Paso Robles, California, north to King City, California, skirting Salinas to the southwest through Castroville and north to the Watsonville region.

While more than 10,000 Monterey County residents and others in the Central Coast region of California were under evacuation orders and warnings on March 12, an additional round of rain is forecast to start on March 13, adding more flood concerns, according to media reports.

The flooding was described as “massive,” and the damage will require months to repair, Luis Alejo, chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, wrote on Twitter.

“OVER 20,000 acres of ag lands in Monterey County will now sit fallow due to storm water contamination, causing significant job losses and an impact on our nation’s food supply,” Alejo said.

Alejo retweeted reports of farm damages: “I’m texting with a farmworker I know; she says many of the fields she works at are underwater and she says they won’t have a job this year. She used to live in Castroville, but now she lives in Watsonville. I’m wondering how many farmworkers are going to be affected by this,” Celia V. Jiménez, a Seaside, California, journalist tweeted.

Flood watches are forecast for the region through Wednesday, March 15, according to the National Weather Service.

The flooding followed an “atmospheric river” that pounded the California and forced evacuations of Pajor, an agricultural community known for strawberries. Evacuation orders and warnings are out throughout Monterey County.

During the overnight hours of Saturday, March 11, the Pajaro River levee in northern Monterey County failed, forcing the evacuations of thousands of residents in the small town of Pajaro. Pajaro is on the south side of Watsonville and northwest of Salinas.

The Pajaro River flows along the border of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the part of the region receiving the heaviest flooding, according to media reports. Floodwaters that entered the region’s wells may be contaminated with chemicals, officials stated, with residents warned to not drink tap water, according to media reports.

The “atmospheric river” is affecting many parts of California, including high waters in Kern and Tulare counties, in the Central Valley, where evacuations were ordered. Damage and tornado warnings were reported in other northern California areas.

No deaths were immediately reported.

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