Morro Bay mobile home park damaged by flood ahead of storm

Morro Bay residents are bracing for another storm after a destructive flood tore through the area earlier this week.

On Monday, floodwaters first struck Silver City West, a mobile home park perched beside Little Morro Creek, then rushed down Main Street and slammed into local businesses there.

“It happened literally so fast,” mobile home park manager Cindy Stirlen said Wednesday. “There’s kind of a curve in the creek, and that’s where it just started breaking through.”

At 10 am Monday, rain was falling steadily onto quiet Main Street.

By 11 am, the creek had overflowed and flooding overwhelmed Main Street. Morro Bay’s Emergency Operations Center was “getting 10, 20 calls for service,” Morro Bay city manager Scott Collins said Wednesday.

According to Collins, the city has a gauge near the Main Street Bridge to measure water levels. If water levels reach 8 feet, it’s considered a flood.

SLO_MorroBaycleanup00887cop
Melissa Stirlen cleans up at the Silver City West mobile home park in Morro Bay during a break in the storm track on Jan. 11, 2023. She and her parents dela who are managers at the park helped residents evacuate Monday after flood waters entered the park. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

On Monday, the water level at the bridge reached 15 feet — which meant 7 feet of floodwater had rushed through Main Street.

“Our roads looked like lakes,” Collins said. “It was just a horrific sight.”

Collins said folks can submit a report to the county about property damage at readyslo.org, which will help the county apply for disaster relief funding.

John Polk, who lives at Silver City West, said he evacuated when floodwaters rushed to the top step of his recreation vehicle.

“I figured I’d better get out,” Polk said Wednesday.

If the rain falls as steadily this weekend as it did during Monday’s storm, Polk said he might leave the mobile home park again to avoid more flooding.

“It depends on how bad it becomes,” Polk said.

SLO_MorroBaycleanup00895
Little Morro Creek flooded into the Silver City West mobile home park in Morro Bay, but did not disturb plants on a deck railing. A break in the storm track on Jan. 10, 2023 after a series of atmospheric river storms hit the coast. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Morro Bay mobile home park floods during storm

On Wednesday, Stirlen recalled the events of Monday’s devastating flood.

At about 9:30 am Monday, an officer drove through Silver Creek West with his emergency lights flashing — but he didn’t stop to talk to the residents or ask them to evacuate, Stirlen said. She didn’t know which agency the officer represented.

At 10:30 am, Little Morro Creek overflowed and spilled into the 53-unit mobile home park, she recalled.

That’s when Stirlen and her husband shut off the main power and started knocking on the mobile home park residents’ doors.

By 11:15 am, she had convinced most of the residents to evacuate to Spencer’s Fresh Market down the road.

By the time Stirlen returned to her own unit, the water reached her knees in the streets — so she picked up her two dogs, husband and daughter and drove away without even an extra change of clothes.

“Thank God we have a pickup so we could get them out,” Stirlen said.

When Stirlen arrived at Spencer’s, she realized that a 94-year-old woman who lived in Silver City West wasn’t with the rest of the residents. Immediately, Stirlen and her husband drove back through the floodwaters to find her.

“We’re breaking through barricades to come back,” Stirlen said. “People were yelling at us and everything, like, ‘You can’t go!’ ”

They drove on anyway.

About 20 minutes later, they found the woman, loaded her into their truck and brought her to Spencer’s.

“Nobody had electric,” Stirlen recalled. “She She would have just been sitting there freezing to death.”

SLO_MorroBaycleanup00905
The Silver City West mobile home park in Morro Bay was filled with mud after the Little Morro Creek flooded. A break in the storm track on Jan. 10, 2023 after a series of atmospheric river storms hit the coast. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

According to Stirlen, floodwaters rushed through the mobile home park and tore out the front fence.

She returned to Silver City West on Tuesday morning to find the roads caked with at least 4 inches of mud, and her home filled with water.

Stirlen opened the door to let the water drain out, then started digging mud out of the roadway so she and the park’s other residents could walk around.

“These grounds are so slick,” Stirlen said. “I’ve been here now trying to clean this up.”

Stirlen also discovered that floodwaters deposited a succulent plant in her sink.

“There was no door open other than the pet door on our patio,” Stirlen said. “We just had a good laugh.”

Many of the units at Silver City West sustained various levels of damage, such as ruined yards or damp foundations. However, Stirlen’s home is uninhabitable, she said.

Unlike other units that are raised off of the ground, preventing floodwaters from reaching inside, Stirlen’s home is lower to the ground and near the front gate — putting it right in the path of Monday’s flood.

On Wednesday, Stirlen and her family were staying at a motel “out of my own pocket,” she said.

As of Wednesday morning, Stirlen said, neither the city of Morro Bay nor San Luis Obispo County had offered her or the mobile home park any assistance.

“I don’t even know what to do,” Stirlen said. “We’re kind of on our own over here.”

SLO_MorroBaycleanup00877
A grader passes by a downed cypress tree between Main St. and Highway 1 near Little Morro Creek in Morro Bay. The sun shines during a break in the storm track on Jan. 11, 2023 after a series of atmospheric river storms hit the coast. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Man rescued from Silver City West by kayak

Eric Foster has lived at Silver City West for almost five years, he said, in a unit that faces the creek.

On Monday, he watched the creek rise by about 1.5 feet an hour, he said.

“This would be as high as I’ve ever seen it before,” Foster said.

At about 7:30 am, he said, the creek was 5 to 6 feet deep. Three hours later, it was about 10 feet deep.

“This is rising, I’ve got to start worrying,” Foster said. “I’ve got to get out of here.”

Foster waited at his house, however, because he was worried about his neighbor, he said. He later learned that she had evacuated earlier that morning.

At about 1 pm, Foster called 911 for evacuation assistance, then waited as he watched the water rise.

He called for help again at about 2 pm, and by 2:30 pm, a firefighter kayaked into the mobile home park to rescue him.

“The water was rushing pretty hard,” Foster said.

By the time he left Silver City West, the water was about 2.5 high — spilling over his back deck up to the door of his home.

When Foster returned to the park on Tuesday, he discovered that the flood had ruined his garden and damaged the foundation of his back deck.

Now, he said, the deck slants downward towards the creek.

Foster is worried that the structure on which his home sits could mold, as it was submerged in water for hours.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he said, though he plans to apply for disaster relief funding.

Luckily, the floodwaters spared the plants perched on top of his railing deck, Foster said.

On Wednesday, they could be seen blooming in the morning sunshine.

SLO County city braces for more rain

Morro Bay will likely more storm damage this weekend as a new round of rain arrives.

According to the National Weather Service, Morro Bay has a chance of rain every day from Friday to Wednesday.

Ahead of the weekend storm, the city was cleaning mud off the streets and clearing debris out of waterways, Collins said.

Morro Bay will operate its Emergency Operations Center through the weekend and prepared volunteers to work in evacuation centers if needed. The city will post storm updates on its website and Facebook page, according to Collins.

“We are encouraging people to maintain situational awareness,” Collins said. “If you don’t have to travel this weekend and you’re on safe and high ground, stay there.”

Collins expects extreme weather events to strike Morro Bay more often due to climate change, he said.

“Coastal California is on the front lines of that,” he said. “That’s why we need to invest in resiliency.”

This story was originally published January 13, 2023 1:50 PM.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Stephanie Zappelli primarily covers SLO County politics and government for the Tribune. She grew up in San Diego and graduated from Cal Poly in 2022. When not writing, Stephanie enjoys hiking, reading and exploring SLO.

.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: