Rainfall floods city streets

By Reggie Ellis

If Jan. 2 was the first time you had visited Exeter, you might have thought a lake was just one of the perks of living in the Park Place subdivision as children rowed by in a canoe and others were snorkeling beneath the reflection of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada.

&#8220We had to kick them out because of liability issues,” said Felix Ortiz, public works director for the city of Exeter.

Heavy rains on Jan. 1-2 flooded the bowl-shaped park designed as a storm water basin. Water from the Blossom Estates subdivision was also pumped into the park as the public works and fire departments worked 24 hours straight to save several homes from water damage.

While the park worked perfectly as a storm basin, residents living on Geary and Prospect avenues in Blossom Estates had no such luck as the streets turned into an ever-expanding body of water slowly creeping toward homes slightly elevated from street level.

&#8220A few more inches and it would have flooded the garage,” said Jack Putnam, who lives in the 400 block of Geary. &#8220Every time a car would drive by too fast, the waves would slap against the garage door.”

Public Works Director Felix Ortiz said the water was &#8220too much too fast” for Exeter's storm drains to handle. There was so much water, that Ortiz had to call in the fire department to bring its light engine to pump water along side the city's pumps from about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 through 9 a.m. on Jan. 2.

&#8220We can't thank the fire department enough for coming out to help,” Ortiz said. &#8220I don't know when we've seen so much water so quickly.”

The storm basin at the City Yard on Firebaugh had reached capacity and the there were also flooded streets in the Wildrose subdivision off Elberta Avenue where one of the city's water pumps did not kick on automatically. Six public works employees scrambled around the clock to make sure that no homes suffered water damage.

Most of the four cities said there were no reports of flood damage in homes. However, if you have seen photographs of Farmersville from the 1955 flood, you can imagine why Renee Miller, acting city manager in Farmersville, said she began to panic after seeing her garage flooded on New Year's Day. Luckily, her home is about a half inch high than her garage. &#8220It didn't get into the house at all, but it was enough to make me a little frantic.”

Miller said Farmersville had recently expanded its storm drain system to accommodate a 10-year storm event. While it was more like a 50- or 100-year event, Miller said the expanded system worked efficiently.

Farmersville's only trouble spots were in the newer part of the city west of Farmersville Boulevard, while the east side, the older homes, had no real flooding. Public Works Director Eliseo Martinez and at least two other city workers were on top of the city's two trouble spots on Front Street near the railroad tracks and on Petunia Street, where the storm drains simply could not handle the volume of water being dumped on the city.

&#8220We have a lot of experience in our public works department and it really paid off,” Miller said.

Public works employees also handed out sandbags at the City Yard on Farmersville Boulevard, but only two people showed up to get them as there was little to no flooding citywide. The only real casualty for Farmersville was a patrol car that's engine was ruined while trying to drive through one of the flooded streets.

When it rains, it pours and just three weeks into her new job, Assistant City Services Director Valerie Williams had to deal with a possibly damaging storm in Lindsay. However, Williams said regular maintenance on the city's storm drains, while overwhelmed at first, helped Lindsay avoid any flood damages.

&#8220None of our storm basins reached capacity but there was some street flooding on Harvard Avenue north of Tulare Road. Williams said there were more reports of fallen tree limbs, such as a large limb at Harvard Park, than any major flooding.

Margaret Adame said the tree in her front yard in the 1000 block of Homassell Avenue could have caused major damages depending on which way the wind blew. Strong winds snapped one of the 25-foot oak tree's two major limbs at the trunk. The limb fell into her next-door neighbors yard covering most of the front lawn.

&#8220It could have fallen on my house, crushed someone's vehicle or even killed someone,” Adame said. &#8220We were all very fortunate that it just fell onto the ground.”

Woodlake seemed to fair the best of any of the four cities. While storm basins in Exeter and Lindsay looked like man-made lakes, Woodlake actually has a man-made lake, Bravo Lake. Public Works Director Reuben DeLeon said the city asked the Wutchumna Water Company turn on its pump for flood control of homes in the southeast portion of the city.

The water company said it received about 200 acre-feet of water from a combination of rainfall and pumping into the lake.

DeLeon said there was very little flooding throughout the city, limited to about three-and-a-half feet at about four intersections throughout Woodlake.

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