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What's the Worst Disaster That Could Happen in Gilroy?

County and Gilroy officials plan for the worst disasters possible; they want to hear what the public thinks.

What’s the worst that could happen?

After asking that question for more than a year now, officials from Santa Clara County and 13 cities, including Gilroy, have the top five.

They are all stemming from major catastrophes, for the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. The intent of the plan is to help agencies identify how to prevent safety hazards before and after major disasters.

The top five, identified in the order most pressing in the county, are enough to keep anyone awake at night:

  • Collapse of unreinforced masonry buildings, or “soft story” buildings during an earthquake. A “soft story” building is a raised multistory structure where the ground floor is parking or retail stores with large windows
  • Wildfires
  • Lack of information sharing between agencies
  • Flooding
  • Dam failures

Gilroy officials said in the city’s report that they are most concerned about earthquakes and flooding from either streams or dam failures.

“The one we worry about more than anything else is earthquakes,” said Joe Kline, Gilroy’s public information officer, and a contributor to Gilroy's hazard mitigation report. With memories of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake still lingering for some in Gilroy, “I think it’s for good reason it’s at the top of the list.”

Kline said flooding is a definite possibility with local creeks and in the case of any dam failures, primarily from Anderson or Uvas dams. And wildfires in the surrounding hillsides are also a concern to city officials.

In addition, other catastrophes are possible, Kline said, like a railway accident or fallout from a plane mishap overhead, since Gilroy is in the flight path to San Jose’s airport.

“We try to be prepared,” he said. “For a city of this size, we have a very robust .”

Now what do you think?

Officials want the public to voice what they think of the draft hazard-mitigation plan and the identified priorities. The county Office of Emergency Services has posted the plan online and asks for public comments during the month of May to be included in an upcoming draft. Any comments received after May 31 will be included in future drafts.

Kirsten Hofmann, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, said they are looking for as much public feedback as possible. Comments about both the county's plan and Gilroy's plan can be emailed to the county's consultant, Corinne Bartshire of Dewberry Associates. Hofmann said the comments would help officials in planning for future emergencies.

“The more work done up front is going to help us in the response and recovery phase of any disaster,” Hofmann said.

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