Members of the California Conservation Corps help a Morgan Hill resident load sandbags into a truck outside El Toro Fire Station Jan. 10, 2023. Photo: Michael Moore

As the latest in a line of strong storms was bearing down on the Central Coast this week, the California Conservation Corps (CCC) sent two crews to Morgan Hill to help fill and distribute sandbags for local residents and property owners. 

The crews—out of Fresno and San Luis Obispo—were busy Tuesday morning at the El Toro Fire Station on Old Monterey Road running a sandbag assembly line. Each time a local resident pulled up in need of flood protection, CCC workers handed off filled sandbags down the line up to the vehicle’s trunk or bed—without the recipient even having to lift a finger. 

At another sand pile at the fire station—which has become a regular sandbag station during inclement weather—CCC members were filing empty burlap sacks with material using a rack designed to make the process easier with multiple helpers. 

During a 30-minute period Jan. 10, at least a dozen cars pulled up for sandbags, as the rain had let up from early morning downpours to a light drizzle. 

At the request of Santa Clara County and Valley Water authorities, the CCC sent the crews—a total of 23 workers—to Morgan Hill as it had been identified as an area in need of assistance during the storms. 

CCC Public Information Officer Chris Van Horne said the request for the Corps’ help initially came from Valley Water through county officials, who went to the California Office of Emergency Services. The state OES dispatched the two crews from CCC—one of which arrived Jan. 9. Another crew was in Palo Alto doing storm assistance, and made it to Morgan Hill Tuesday morning. 

Van Horne expected the crews to be helping Morgan Hill with sandbags at least through the evening of Jan. 10. 

The CCC, a state-run agency, is a youth work development program, primarily for people age 18-25. The Corps has about 1,600 members statewide who receive training and respond to natural disasters and assist with other natural resources projects, Van Horne explained. 

The program offers a viable path to careers in state and county parks or CalFire. Corps workers can earn scholarships or diplomas while serving with the CCC, Van Horne added. 

During the recent weeks’ storms, in addition to helping fill and distribute sandbags, CCC crews have helped reinforce damaged levees, Van Horne said. 

“It’s a great program for young adults who come from all over the state to make a difference in their communities, and in other people’s communities,” Van Horne said.

California Conservation Corps members filled sandbags at El Toro Fire Station for Morgan Hill residents Jan. 10. Photo: Michael Moore
Stacks of filled sandbags were available for local residents at El Toro Fire Station Jan. 10. 

Local impact

Although the latest storm in Morgan Hill on Jan. 9-10 was one of the strongest of the season so far, city officials said no significant damage or incidents were reported despite widespread local flooding on waterlogged creek banks and roadways. 

This week’s storm dumped nearly 3.5 inches on Morgan HIll during an almost two-day period, according to local weather enthusiast Chris Henry, who keeps daily rain measurements at his home just west of town. So far in January, Morgan Hill has received 6.97 inches of rain—already surpassing the month’s historical average of 5.03 inches. 

For the 2022-23 rainy season so far, more than 24 inches of rain has fallen on Morgan Hill, Henry said. The average annual rainfall here is 24.64 inches. 

City Hall and Morgan Hill Police officials said the latest storm didn’t create any major public safety incidents. MHPD activated its Emergency Operations Center early this week just in case, MHPD Sgt. Scott Purvis said. 

Still, public works crews and officers were busy placing signs and barricades at flooded roads throughout town. Scattered power outages occurred, with some cutting off traffic signals at roadway intersections. As of early in the afternoon Jan. 10, the four-way signal at Monterey Road and Butterfield Boulevard was still out, with a temporary “STOP” sign directing motorists. 

At times during the latest storm, statewide more than 80,000 PG&E customers were without power. 

The morning of Jan. 9, Morgan Hill was “experiencing significant flooding,” especially around Little Llagas and Fisher Creeks, according to an email newsletter from city staff. Much of the flooding was concentrated west of Monterey Road. 

Highway 101 in Gilroy was shut down for several hours the afternoon of Jan. 9 because of flooding. Highway 25 south of Gilroy was reportedly briefly closed Monday afternoon as well. 

“City teammates are continuously working to clear storm drains and debris and collaborating with Valley Water to minimize the impact on our community members with a concentrated concern for our vulnerable populations and high-flooding risk areas,” read another newsletter from the City of Morgan Hill Jan. 9. 

The brunt of this week’s storm likely hit around 2am Jan. 10, when a “squall line” with 50 mph gusts and torrential rains passed over Morgan Hill, said Henry, who was abruptly awoken by the early-morning weather. In its wake over the next couple hours were downed trees, property damage and tornado warnings up through the Bay Area to Sacramento. 

A home in Woodland Lake Estates was almost flooded out during heavy downpours on Jan. 9. Photo: Chris Henry/Morgan Hill Rainfall
A view of Second Street looking toward Del Monte Avenue in downtown Morgan Hill, Jan. 9. Photo: Gilda Palacios
Llagas Creek at Watsonville Road, Jan. 10.
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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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