More cities join tide of emergency declarations

Visalia, Woodlake, Lindsay, Porterville proclaim local emergencies in preparation for incoming storms expected to hit the Valley

VISALIA – After being hit with an unprecedented amount of damages due to the storms last week, Tulare County and cities within it are scrambling to issue emergency declarations. Their hope is to allocate resources for a recovery effort quickly following this week’s parade of storms.

On Tuesday March 14, Woodlake, Lindsay and Porterville joined the city of Visalia who proclaimed a local emergency on March 13 following the storms that took place a few days prior. The emergency will help the cities prepare for and handle the storms that will be coming in the next few days. Tulare County had proclaimed a local emergency on March 1 as well, and then another one on March 9 according to the county’s office of emergency services manager Andrew Lockman.

Lockman said these proclamations allow the county and individual cities to alert residents of the severity of the issues, activate local authorities like evacuations and expand normal purchasing authorities.

The action taken by these cities and county follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 1. That declaration included 13 counties in California, one of which was Tulare County. Newsom has now expanded that list to include a total of 34 counties throughout the state, and request for a presidential emergency declaration that was granted by the White House this week.

“We’re continuing to work as diligently as we can, the county and all the agencies within it to make sure that we respond, as quickly as possible and, as thoroughly as possible. And the next step will be to ensure that we recover as quickly and fully as possible,” Lockman said. “That’s what the proclamations are really working toward.”

For individuals looking to  receive emergency alerts directly from the County of Tulare or any of the other cities, they can sign up for AlertTC at

Under advisement from the county of Tulare and the Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Visalia made the declaration and immediately implemented an emergency response plan which will be effective through Monday, March 20.

“We are preparing for the next storm and encourage all community members to prepare their own households for an amount of water that the city has never seen before,” city of Visalia fire chief Dan Griswold said on March 13 in a press release from the city. “Even if you do not live directly by a waterway, we advise everyone to prepare to the best of their ability before this storm and water hits.”

The city of Visalia will have a dry center available for residents who need to escape the storms. It is located at the Visalia Transit Center Lobby, located at 425 east Oak Ave. The dry center is open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. through Wednesday, March 15. For those needing overnight accommodations, the Visalia warming center is open from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. through Saturday, March 18, located at 701 east Race Ave.

As the storm and flooding event progresses, information will be disseminated to all residents and community members via social media, media outlets, in-person notifications as needed and even text alerts if residents opt to receive them. To receive the latest emergency updates for Visalia, sign up for text alerts by texting “VISALIA” to +18447137830.

Public affairs specialist with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Ken Wright said they are encouraging people to pay attention to their local orders.

“We are unable to predict the combined effects of the releases at Terminus Dam and water flows from other sources,” Wright said. “We strongly encourage residents to closely monitor local and regional emergency service.”

City crews successfully diverted water and avoided major flooding in most areas of the city over the weekend. However, water levels remained high in most waterways as of Monday, March 13 with even more rain anticipated in the next week.

“We are preparing for different scenarios that could take place over the next 48 hours and are working with local agencies to ensure that our city [Visalia] is ready,” said city of Visalia fire chief, Dan Griswold said on March 13 in a press release from the city. “With the declaration of a local emergency, we advise people to wait for official communication and know that we are working on plans and services.”

According to a press release from the city of Visalia, in addition to the forecasted rain and snowmelt, the Army Corps of Engineers is planning a release of water from Lake Kaweah at the Terminus Dam. The release is due to an influx of water in the lake and is expected to impact waterways throughout the city of Visalia. Releasing water will likely include a release over the spillway, which is not a dam failure, but a planned operation.

The city of Visalia is working closely with other local agencies such as the county of Tulare, Cal Water, SoCal Gas, Southern California Edison and other nearby cities to prepare for all possibilities. Residents who live directly next to a waterway are advised to utilize city services, place sandbags at their property and prepare for the possibility of waterways to spill over.

Other cities

According to a press release from the city of Woodlake, they have also declared a local emergency from Tuesday, March 14 through Monday, March 20. The city has made the decision to do so in response to the storm on March 10 and in anticipation of the arrival of new storms.

“The city of Woodlake’s public works, police and fire departments continue to prepare for upcoming rainstorms and potential additional snowmelt that could continue to overwhelm local streams, canals, stormwater lines and basins throughout the city,” Mayor Rudy Mendoza, stated in the press release.

The Woodlake Community Center is available as a temporary shelter and dry center if requested. It can be made available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Individuals who are in need, can call 559-564-8055 if accommodations are needed.

Since the previous storm four days ago, Woodlake city crews have been tirelessly working around the clock to address flooded zones throughout the city. They have been working to remove water, making sandbags, removing debris and mud from streets, sidewalks and exteriors of homes. They have also been removing debris from impacted households and providing resource support coordination for all citizens of the city and neighboring communities.

Like Visalia, Woodlake has been working in conjunction with local partners. Since last week an on-going flood control and emergency action plan implementation with the help of the county of Tulare, Woodlake Fire Protection District, Woodlake Police Department and CalFire. However, with all the help and working non-stop, there has been substantial damage to homes, vehicles, private structures, public facilities and families have required evacuation.

Lindsay also proclaimed a local emergency in preparation of the anticipated heavy rain and run off in Lewis Creek. From the past storms over the weekend, city crews have successfully diverted water and avoided major flooding in most areas of the city. However, according to a press release from the city, water levels remain high in most waterways as of Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

City manager Joe Tanner said their drain system performed fairly well throughout the last round of storms on Friday and Saturday. The city will continue to keep a close eye on one of their largest drainage basins north of Harvard Park. According to Tanner, the water levels did lower, but with more water coming in they will be paying close attention.

Lindsay will be opening up the Lindsay Senior Center, on 911 north Parkside Ave. It will act as a drying center and will also provide transportation to a permanent evacuation center if needed.

“If people need to leave their homes, due to the flooding this week, they can stay there,” Tanner said. “And then we’re going to provide transportation to more permanent facilities later on.”

Porterville also joined the other cities in proclaiming a local emergency for the city. As a result of the local emergency declaration, the City’s Emergency Operations Center has formerly been activated and a Unified Command with Tulare County has been entered.

How to prepare

Each city has several resources that residents are encouraged to take advantage of. Additionally, the county and each city is inviting residents to prepare for the upcoming storms. Some ways this can be done are listed below.

  • Utilize cities dry centers  
  • The City of Visalia has a 24-hour self-serve sand station available for Visalia residents at the Visalia Corporation Yard on Cain Street, between Goshen and Main. Residents must bring their own shovel, but sand and sandbags are available at the station. Bags are limited to eight per household. Additional filling stations are located at fire stations throughout the county.
  • Limit unnecessary travel but ensure your car’s fuel tank is full.  
  • Prepare your household by ensuring you have water, non-perishable food and cash on hand. 
  • Create a communication plan for your family.  
  • Unplug any devices at your home if flooding is anticipated near you. Ensure any portable charging devices are fully charged before rain begins. 
  • Prepare important documents in one place and have them easily accessible.  
  • Move important or valuable items off the floor of your home to higher areas such as shelves or overhead space if possible.   
  • If you have a pet, ensure you have a stock of food for them and a plan in place for their care. 
  • Report flooding and damages

Lockman said be sure to report any damages to property or households. It is important that the county will be able to do damage assessments for the past storms as well as throughout the incoming series of storms. To report damages, visit and fill out the Tulare County’s Property Damage Form. Additional emergency information can also be found on the county’s website.

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