Sheriff Boudreaux issues evacuation order: “The situation has changed”

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux issues an evacuation order in Porterville over anticipated flooding

PORTERVILLE – As storms continue to roll in and water is released from dams and spillways, an evacuation order was set in place to protect residents from localized flooding.

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux issued an evacuation order on March 15 for all residences, businesses and structures on both sides of the Tule River. The evacuation will extend from Richard L. Schafer Dam at Lake Success in Porterville to the east side of Road 284. This is due to the increase of water pouring down from the hillsides, especially as the Tule River Spillway and Schafer Dam are releasing water, which may cause localized flooding.

“The situation has changed. We have put in evacuation order just below Schafer Dam,” Boudreaux said on a livestream update over social media. “They do have time to get out and we’re about eight hours from where the water is going to be getting to an area where it’s going to be unsafe.”

With Lake Success already exceeding its gross pool capacity of 84,095 acre-feet and more rain on the way, releases from both the Schafer Dam outlet works and the Tule River Spillway are expected to increase over the next 48 hours. The evacuation order would consist of the area from Schafer Dam, west on Avenue 146, to Road 284, south on Road 284 to the south side of the Tule River, from the south side of the Tule River to the Schafer Dam, and north along Schafer Dam to Avenue 146. The Order would not include Highway 190, or the residents and businesses along Highway 190 from Road 284 to the Schafer Dam.

“There’s about 100 homes out there. We are sending deputies as well as firemen door to door at each of the houses so that we can contact as many people as we can,” Boudreaux said. “The storm is coming in again, we’ve been prepared for this. But now the amount of water coming off the hillsides is elevated and expedited the need for us to get out of the area.”

Schafer Dam is not currently at risk of being damaged or overtopping as, even at capacity, lake levels are well below the top of the dam. However, the United States Army Corps of Engineers are now monitoring the dam and spillway around the clock and are coordinating with state and local partners to update release projections multiple times per day. The USACE Sacramento District is closely monitoring Schafer Dam and Lake Success in connection with the ongoing severe weather event.

The current combined release through the outlet works and spillway is approximately 6,000 cubic feet of water per second as of Monday evening and has increased to 12,500 cubic feet per second as of March 15 as rain continues to feed into waterways.

A project to increase the capacity of Lake Success by 28,000 acre-feet is currently in construction. Construction equipment has been removed from the area and the spillway can function as designed even though modifications are not complete.

The USACE teams are advising residents to monitor local and county authorities for the latest information, resources, and evacuation warnings.  This will not only help ensure your safety, but also maintain availability of emergency resources during this critical time.

This comes after TSCO previously announced that both Lake Success and Lake Kaweah are nearing capacity due to the recent rainfall in Tulare County. Lake Kaweah may also be opening their spillways if the need arises.

Both dam structures at Lake Success and Kaweah Lake are stable, in good working condition and operating as designed, according to TCSO’s press release. Residents can expect to see water activity over the spillways at each dam, which is normal. The press release also noted that water activity and releases over a spillway are not an indication of dam failure, but are part of the dam’s intended operation.

Ryan Watson, project manager of the USACE previously told the Sun-Gazette that the situation is dynamic and changing as storms continue to loom overhead, and this causes the amount of water being released to change. He had said that they were not expecting any flows over the fusegates until late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. However, early Wednesday morning the need for more water to be released had arisen, just a bit earlier than expected.

County and city emergency operation centers are activated and closely monitoring potential for flood impacts as well. Officials urge people to be prepared for more potential flooding, especially those who reside near waterways.On 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.

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