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In California's Monterey County, evacuation orders are in place for some communities

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Nearly 20 people have died in California after a series of dangerous and destructive storms. And more bad weather is on the way. In Monterey County along California's Pacific Coast, evacuation orders are in place for several communities along the Salinas River. It's still rising and is predicted to flood this afternoon. Our co-host, A Martínez, talked to Monterey County spokesman Nicholas Pasculli and asked about the possibility that the Monterey Peninsula could become an island due to flood water.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Access to the peninsula was cut off by flooding nearly 30 years ago. Do you expect things this time to get anywhere near as bad as they were that time?

NICHOLAS PASCULLI: We are anticipating that that is probable. Obviously, we're hoping that that doesn't happen. But we are preparing for that very event.

MARTÍNEZ: And how are you preparing?

PASCULLI: So we're pre-positioning assets and personnel in multiple locations throughout the county. That way, there's resources available should emergencies arise.

MARTÍNEZ: What kind of things does that entail?

PASCULLI: It entails personnel - fire, rescue, law enforcement and also public works personnel. It would include equipment such as high-water rescue vehicles. It would include other types of vehicles from our sheriff's department and from our local police departments that are able to go into high water and make rescues and then Marine assets as well.

MARTÍNEZ: And it might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway - if you're thinking about even going near that area, maybe think again.

PASCULLI: We love visitors, but probably, you know, the next couple of days is not the exact perfect time to come visit.

MARTÍNEZ: I mean, how much worse could things get? What kind of damage could we be seeing?

PASCULLI: Well, it is expected to rain through the weekend. We may get a slight break come late Friday or Saturday. What we're doing is we're preparing for the worst and obviously hoping for the best. We have evacuated a number of small communities that are along the Salinas River. We do have an evacuation order in the northern part of the county adjacent to the Pajaro River, which is the river that divides Santa Cruz County and Monterey County.

MARTÍNEZ: If things do wind up getting worse, would it be the kind of worse where no amount of sandbags could save people's homes? I mean, is it - people would have to leave, I would assume, at that point.

PASCULLI: Yeah. When an evacuation order is issued, that's the intent, that people need to leave and to find a safe place to stay until the evacuation order is lifted. We've been going actually door to door, both with volunteers and our sheriff's department and other law enforcement and first responders, giving people flyers, telling them where they can go and where they can get resources so that they can be safe during this uncertain weather event.

MARTÍNEZ: And if all the rain that is expected to come comes, how long does it typically take for things to dry out, so to speak, to get to the point where people can come back and it's livable again?

PASCULLI: In a worst-case scenario, if we do get this kind of cut-off situation where the Monterey Peninsula becomes an island, essentially, we're anticipating it could be two, three days before the waters would recede. And then we would even have to do damage assessments to make sure that the transportation routes are safe for people to travel.

MARTÍNEZ: How are people holding up this time around?

PASCULLI: You know, I think we're really seeing people kind of rally and people taking care of each other. I will say one of the great things about this county is that it's very community minded, very community oriented. Our community is very, very generous. People are helping each other, neighbors helping neighbors. You know, folks really rally in tough times. And this is one of those tough times that people are rallying.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Monterey County Communications Director Nicholas Pasculli. Nicholas, thanks.

PASCULLI: Thank you so much for your time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.