The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Flood invades Belmont Trailer Park

February 10, 2023


Clementine Cunningham

The storm on New Year’s Eve leaves many homes in the Belmont Trailer Park damaged.

The New Year began with a rocky start for residents across California when heavy rainfall on Dec. 31 left many with water damage. Right off of U.S. Highway 101 in Belmont, Calif., nearly four feet of water flooded a highly-affected area: the Belmont Trailer Park.

“It all happened so rapidly. It was raining in the morning, and by the afternoon, it was all flooded. All my stuff is full of water. I tried to rescue as much as possible,” said resident Vivi-Lili Castillo.

Bags full of Castillo’s water-damaged possessions sit in front of her home. She tried covering them with tarps, but it was futile against the incessant rain. 

“I have a collection of expensive dolls I’ve been gathering for over 20 years. I was hoping to donate them to my home country of Peru,” Castillo said.

Twenty years of collecting is now down the drain. Castillo placed her beloved dolls in a trash bag outside; the water had damaged most of them beyond repair. 

Inside Castillo’s trailer, the rest of her water-logged belongings, including furniture and personal items, are piled in the middle of the main room. The kitchen is damaged, and the floors are as well. Outside many other residents have dumped their damaged household appliances; TVs, refrigerators, and grills sit in the street. 

Residents of the Belmont Trailer Park leave their damaged belongings outside, with no other place to put them. (Clementine Cunningham)

“Nobody has insurance to fix the water damage here because insurance companies think this area is not good. I need to put stuff in storage, but it’s very expensive, so I don’t know how I will be able to do it,” Castillo said.

This is the situation many residents in the area face as their damaged objects begin to take up space in their homes. Directly after the flood, San Mateo County red-tagged the houses in the trailer park and offered hotel rooms for residents. 

“San Mateo County provided a hotel room for the mobile home residents right after the flooding on New Year’s Eve,” Castillo said. “Now it is only offered for those with serious health conditions.”

When a home is red-tagged after a natural disaster, residents can only repair it once they consult with county officials. Mobile home residents with severe water damage will have to follow through with this process. 

Despite the possibility of further rainfall, some residents chose to remain in the affected area. For residents like Philip Duffy, moving to a hotel room was too impractical. 

“My wife and I didn’t avail ourselves of these resources offered because we both work, so it was more convenient to stay here,” Duffy said. 

Duffy’s trailer managed to stay primarily dry. Like some others in the park, his trailer is elevated a few feet off the ground. This minimized the water damage in their homes. 

“Luckily, our trailer is 2 ½ ft above the ground, so only our side room and laundry room were flooded,” Duffy said. 

The reason the mobile home park was so affected could have stemmed from multiple factors: the nearby river, the storm drains, and the pipes. Castillo believes it is crucial to get to the root of this issue to prevent flooding in the future. 

“I’ve heard many different opinions explaining why it flooded here. Some say it’s the Belmont Creek or that the pipes were broken. It could be the water running off the hills from Belmont. With all these different opinions, it is difficult to know what could help this area,” Castillo said. 

Philip Scott, a fellow resident, believes the Belmont river, about 900 feet from the mobile home park, was a leading contributor to the flooding in the area. 

“When Belmont Creek overflows its crest, it comes flooding into the mobile home park. The storm drains also backed up, especially due to the high tide in the Bay,” Scott said. 

The stormwater in the area typically comes down from Twin Pines Park into the Belmont Creek through a culvert under El Camino Real. Through this culvert, the water flows all the way down to the mobile home park.

While residents across the Bay Area attempted to use sub pumps and water vacuums to minimize the flooding in their homes, this was impossible at the mobile home park. 

“There was storm after storm coming down on us. Some people tried to mitigate the floating with sub pumps, but with the high tide, we were all like, ‘forget about it,'” Scott said. 

 After the flooding, the residents in the area received swift aid from county emergency services and the American Red Cross. The latter set up a shelter for those affected residents at the San Mateo County Fairground. The shelter provided the residents with a place to sleep, meals, and showers. 

“The Red Cross came immediately, and the ownership and management service of the mobile park, too. The county emergency services were very helpful,” Duffy said. 

Despite this support and assistance, mobile home park residents are still grappling with the aftermath of the flooding. They hope conditions will improve as the rainfall subsides, and they can begin to recover and find stability. 

“This continues to be a low point for us – both geographically and psychologically,” Duffy said.

About the Photographer
Photo of Clementine Cunningham
Clementine Cunningham, Highlander Managing Editor
Clementine Cunningham (class of 2024) is a student at Carlmont High School, a staff writer for Scot Scoop, and a managing editor for The Highlander. She is passionate about covering a variety of topics that bring awareness to pressing issues in our ever-changing society. In her free time, you can find her dancing at Heartbeat Dance studio, obsessing over books, or testing out a new recipe.

To view her portfolio, click here.

Twitter: @clecunningham

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