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By Miriam Raftery

February 11, 2024 (San Diego) – More than 1,200 San Diegans remain displaced from homes damaged in the Jan. 22 flood, including Beba Zarate, a teacher, and her two sons. The Zarate family helped get neighbors to safety amid rising floodwaters when emergency agencies were overwhelmed. But they had no flood insurance at the time, and lost nearly everything. They have put up a GoFundMe page, but so far only a few hundred dollars has been raised.

“We are hardly getting any help from the county or from the city,” say Zarate, whose home on Osborn Street in San Diego’s Shelltown neighborhood had water four feet deep rush in when a nearby creek flooded. “The only help was cleaning stuff, cleaning the street.  They removed all the trash and furniture.”

Nonprofits provided basic essentials such as clothes, shoes and cleaning supplies. But so far, neither FEMA nor state or local governments have stepped up with the major financial resources needed to help the family rebuild their home and lives.

Their one-story home needs major repairs and nearly all of the family’s belongings need to be replaced, including Zarate’s computer and teaching materials, kitchen appliances, furnishings and more. They also lost items of sentimental value, including family photos damaged by floodwaters that reached four feet deep.

Zarate returned home the day of the severe storm to find water several feet high rushing into the house.  “I said, `We cannot stay here!’” she recalls.”I told my son to call 911...They said hold on and transferred us to the fire department, but we couldn’t wait anymore.”

So she and her two adult sons picked up their three dogs and waded outside. They realized water was flowing down a hill behind their home, as well as from the creek. Then she spotted her elderly neighbors, who called out and said they were trapped and appeared to be in shock. Beba Zarate helped organize neighbors to help each other. urged other neighbors to climb to the top of the hill, then drove to her father’s house to get dry clothes for neighbors who were soaking wet, including one with a 10-month-old baby.

For now, the Zarate family is staying with relatives.  They have begun removing parts of walls and cleaning the muddy debris in every room, but need help to restore their house and be able to move home. The family did have flood insurance at one time, but had let the policy lapse to save money amid rising inflation.

This past week, Beba Zarate’s middle son (photo,left) graduated from the Air Force Academy in Texas. But the flood caused the family yet another loss.  “We were not able to go to the graduation,” his mother said regretfully.

Despite the devastation, she is trying hard to find the silver lining,  “We are here, still alive.  I’m so grateful for being here. We are living one day at a time, and learning lessons," she concludes. "We all have to be prepared.”

You can donate to help the Zarate family at

Note:  The Zarate family are friends of a close family friend of East County Magazine's editor.  If you can items to donate that they might need, especially a computer and kitchen appliances, please email or call (619)698-7617.



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