The Monterey County Sheriff's Office lifted the evacuation orders in Pajaro on Thursday, March 23 at 10am, 12 days after devastating flooding after the Pajaro River levee breached early in the morning on March 11.

The reentry was permitted a day earlier than county officials had previously anticipated, and they advised residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday in Watsonville to expect to be able to return to Pajaro on Friday at the earliest. 

Barriers and security guards blocking access to the south side of Pajaro River Bridge, and over the Santa Cruz-Monterey county line, were no longer there, and cars and bustle started to return to the town on Thursday. 

This reentry does not mean Pajaro is ready to resume normal life. Now, the fourth step for repopulation is beginning after fire, environmental health, public works and building inspectors hav completed their initial work. Residents are able to check on the state of their homes and belongings and begin the cleanup process.

Currently, county officials are not recommending residents inhabit their homes and if they do, it will be at their own risk. “It may not be safe for the family to stay. That’s why shelters will remain open,” says Nick Pasculli, Monterey County’s communications director.

Pajaro has gas and electricity, but potable water and sewage continue to be out of service. County Public Works and the Pajaro Sunny Mesa Community Services District are working together to repair the sewage system. 

In the meantime, Monterey County set up hubs with showers, bathrooms and laundry service at Pajaro Park and Pajaro Middle School. MST will provide transportation to both hubs. On Thursday, volunteers with the American Red Cross distributed essential items to residents as they returned home. 

Daniel Dreifuss contributed to this report. 

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