Skip to main content

Keeping Tijuana River Valley Safe From Floods

Emergency officials, politicians and residents met to plot strategy, including evacuation plans

Photo by Susan Murphy

San Diego Councilman David Alvarez talks to emergency officials and Tijuana River Valley residents about evacuation plans in preparation for potential El Niño flooding, at the Southern Division San Diego Police Department, Jan. 5, 2016.

As heavy rains battered San Diego County on Tuesday, residents of the flood-prone Tijuana River Valley met with officials to coordinate potential evacuations for families and animals.

As heavy rains battered San Diego County on Tuesday, people living in the Tijuana River Valley met with first responders and politicians at the San Diego Police Department's station in Otay Mesa to coordinate potential evacuations for families and animals.

The low-lying valley is one of the most flood-prone regions in the county and home to bi-national waterways, ranches and a thousand horses.

“Anybody who has been in San Diego long enough knows what’s happened in this area in the past,” said San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who coordinated the meeting as part of the city’s El Niño preparations.

Special Feature Navigating El Niño

“This is critical because of the significance and in terms of the strength of what is being anticipated,” Alvarez said.

On Tuesday afternoon, heavy rains had forced a temporary closure of Monument Road east of Saturn Boulevard, about a half-mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to San Diego police.

“Don’t be complacent even if it’s raining lightly in the river valley,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told the group. “Don’t wait to evacuate.”

“The fact is it could be raining a lot harder upstream,” Dedina said. “The flooding is not just about the water that’s coming down stream — it’s all that debris. You get a lot of dirt washing out and debris washing off those hillsides. “

Photo by Susan Murphy

Trash fills a binational waterway in the Tijuana River Valley near the San Diego-Mexico border, Jan. 5, 2016.

In anticipation of floods, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has deployed crews to the region in the event they’re needed for rescues, said Lt. John Sandmeyer, leader of the agency's River Rescue Team.

“We’re currently at ‘Alert Status 3,’ which puts us out in the field,” Sandmeyer said. “Any time we get a prediction of 1½ inches or more in the next 24-hour period, that will put our team in readiness in the field.”

Sandmeyer urged people to keep from becoming a victim.

“If you’re unsure of the depth of the water, don’t go through it — especially moving water at any time," Sandmeyer said. "A foot of moving water can move a car."

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.