Hundreds rescued after historic rain and flooding in San Diego

The National Weather Service said Monday was the fifth-wettest day on record in San Diego since 1850.
A woman walks by cars damaged by floods during a rainstorm in San Diego on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.
Posted at 2:16 PM, Jan 23, 2024

Hundreds of families needed help escaping their homes in parts of San Diego Monday after torrential rain pounded the region, causing widespread flooding. 

With rain pouring in at nearly half an inch per hour, flash floods swept away countless vehicles and shut down multiple roads and highways. Floodwaters pushed up to people’s front doors, with some telling Scripps News San Diego it was chest-deep at times. 

The National Weather Service said Monday was the fifth-wettest day in San Diego since 1850. During the winter, the region typically averages around 2 inches of rain per month, The Associated Press reported. But some of the highest recorded three-day totals exceeded 4 inches in some cities. 

Crews with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department performed about 25 rescues Monday because of flooding from the San Diego and Tijuana rivers, along with vehicle rescues in various neighborhoods, according to the city agency. Rescue crews had to use inflatable boats and rescue boards to help residents escape badly flooded homes. In addition, firefighters and U.S. Border Patrol agents rescued a group of migrants who had entered the country illegally and gotten trapped in floodwaters in San Ysidro, the federal agency reported.

While some residents required hospitalization, no deaths have been reported at this time. 

Vanessa Coleman, who lives on Beta Street in San Diego’s Southcrest neighborhood, told Scripps News San Diego she and her family had to escape the flooding through a window because the water at their front door was knee-high. Other residents escaped by wading through waist-high water carrying their pets.

Sherry Gogue, who lives on 8th Street in National City, near San Diego, said she's devastated.

"My husband just retired and we were planning on great things with this house, and now we have to rebuild for a second time," she said. "This happened one year ago on MLK Day and we lost half our house ... Now we lost the whole house."

Gogue said Tuesday is all about salvaging what they can, which will mainly be clothes. She also told Scripps News San Diego she is grateful that her family is alive because both her husband and her son were stuck in the waters up to their chests for an hour and a half before they were rescued on Monday. 

The San Diego Fire Department said all residents affected by the flooding should bleach their gloves and shoes after cleaning out storm damage because much of the storm waters were mixed with sewage from broken sewage pipes.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation on Tuesday to expedite much-needed assistance from the state to help with the damage. 

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria declared an emergency in the city due to heavy rainfall and flash flooding, and the county proclaimed a local emergency on behalf of its board of supervisors. 

School districts across the region closed Monday and extended those closures into Tuesday, as widespread damage and power outages remained and some schools were being used for overnight emergency shelters opened by The Red Cross. 

Some existing shelters had to temporarily relocate residents because of the storm damage, Scripps News San Diego reported. 

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