Evacuations near California’s dam as storm shatters rainfall records
- US News
- March 15, 2023
- No Comment
surging rivers. Sliding rocks. Flooded Cities.
The 11th atmospheric river storm of the season left a trail of wet misery in California as it shattered decades-old rainfall records and breached levees this week.
In the Tulare County town of Porterville, residents on both sides of the Tule River were ordered to evacuate the river Wednesday morning as the level at Lake Success rose and water overflowed the spillway at Schafer Dam.
“The amount of water coming from the slopes is increased and [it has] has accelerated the need for us to leave the area,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said in a video update around 1 a.m. noting officers were going door-to-door to evacuate residents.
About 100 homes lie between the spillway and Street 284, Boudreaux said. Shelters are open at the Exeter Veterans Memorial Building, Porterville College Gym and Dinuba Memorial Hall.
Lake Success saw a significant increase in inflows overnight, with about 19,064 cubic feet of water flowing in per second as of Wednesday morning, according to state data. Visalia and Porterville have declared states of emergency.
Elsewhere in the state, storm clouds began to clear on Wednesday, although many impacts are expected to continue.
Nearly 200,000 people were left without power across the country, many in the San Francisco Bay Area, where classes at more than a dozen Cupertino schools have been canceled.
In the Los Angeles area, mud and trees tumbled down a slope in Baldwin Hills overnight, pinning several cars. Several daily rainfall records were set by a wide margin on Tuesday, including 2.54 inches at Santa Barbara, which broke a 1952 record of 1.36 inches, and 2.25 inches at Oxnard, beating the 1930 mark of 1.46 inches became. Los Angeles International Airport saw 1.97 inches, breaking a record of 0.43 inches set in 1982.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, heavy rain melted the dense snowpack and sent fountains of water down the streets. In Sacramento, reports of surfers and kayakers on the surging American River prompted county alerts.
The Fresno Fire Department responded to an apartment complex where a very large tree fell on the building, displacing at least five adults and five children, spokesman Jonathan Lopez-Galvan said. The tree also damaged two vehicles and uprooted a power pole, although no people were injured.
Perhaps the storm’s most lasting effects will be seen in the flooded community of Pajaro, Monterey County. A dam collapse on the Pajaro River late Friday allowed rainwater to pour into the migrant town of about 3,000, prompting widespread evacuations and cutting off drinking water in the area.
State and county officials worked to stabilize the breach, but there was no official timeline for remediation.
“We want people to return to their homes as soon as possible and we will do everything we can to make that happen,” county spokesman Nicholas Pasculli said during a news conference on Tuesday. “But there will undoubtedly be instances where people will not be able to return to some of their homes.”
Officials also monitored the nearby Salinas River, which remained swollen at Bradley and Spreckels Wednesday morning.
“They’re still in the high tide stage at the gauges, and it’s going to take a while for them to recede,” said Jeff Lorber, a weather forecaster with the Bay Area’s National Weather Service.
Although the rains have mostly stopped, additional surges in rivers are expected due to runoff, Lorber said. “The soil is still very saturated, so it will take a while for the moisture that has accumulated in the mountains to seep down into the valleys.”
In Southern California, officials made a similar observation Conejo Creek in Camarillo, which peaked on Wednesday morning, prompting a flood warning in the region. Street flooding is expected, including around the Ventura community of Leisure Village, said Rose Schoenfeld, meteorologist with the Oxnard Weather Service.
The storm resulted in incidents of “mud and rockfalls on the roads and overnight roadway flooding,” Schoenfeld said, including flooding on the 105 Freeway near Long Beach Boulevard. “There are certainly travel implications across the region.”
Officials in Santa Barbara County reported that the storm had created a waterfall in Tucker’s Grove Park and noted that “the flowing water finds its way to San Antonio Creek and eventually drains into the ocean.”
In Orange County, Supervisor Katrina Foley on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency to aid storm responses in the area, prompted in part by a hillside collapse in Newport Beach that threatened some homes and brought down a stretch of bluff.
“I hope there isn’t another slide down the shore, but if those three houses fall there can be a cascading effect for the 50 other houses on the cliff and we have to be prepared for that should that happen,” Foley said in an explanation .
Gov. Gavin Newsom extended his state of emergency to Orange, Alpine and Trinity counties Tuesday night, meaning 43 of California’s 58 counties are now covered by the proclamation. More than 30 flood monitors and warnings are in effect from the National Weather Service.
Forecasters said rain should ease in most areas by Wednesday afternoon. Next week, however, another atmospheric flux is likely to hit the state.