Tulare County prepares for more rain, flooding

Tulare County in partnership with other emergency services warns county residents that flooding is not over and could grow over the next week

TULARE COUNTY – As areas like Alpaugh and Allensworth continue to flood, the county is warning residents to remain alert and stay vigilant with more rain in the forecast.

The county of Tulare, city of Porterville and city of Visalia are working together through Emergency Operation Services. They issued a joint statement warning their communities that more rain and therefore more flooding could be on the way. County and city officials encourage residents to stay vigilant and be prepared over the course of the next week. Since the county was hit so hard over the last few weeks, local waterways and water systems throughout the county are significantly stressed.

“We’re all working together on strategies of moving this amount of water in positive ways,” Carrie Monteiro, public information officer for Tulare County said. “We [work to] avoid damages and our highest priority is life and property.”

According to Monteiro the parts of the county the Emergency Operation Services are more concerned about are those in the southwest portion of the county. Lake Success and Schaffer Dam is much smaller than Lake Kaweah, so that side of the county has been hit harder than the areas who have dealt with water from Lake Kaweah and the Terminus Dam. County and city emergency operation centers are activated and closely monitoring the potential for further flood impacts.

Officials urge residents who live near a waterway to be prepared for more potential flooding and encourage everyone to be aware of any signs of damage or erosion along waterways, rivers, streams and canals.

According to Ken Wright, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the forecasted storm does not appear to be enough to activate the spillway at Lake Kaweah again.

“As of this morning, the current forecast and operations plan do not indicate spillway flow at Terminus Dam with the incoming storms,” Wright said. “The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District will continue to make release adjustments as needed to account for downstream Dry Creek flows during any upcoming storms as they normally would.”

In preparation of the forecasted rain, resources including swiftwater rescue teams and other first responders are strategically prepositioned around Tulare County to respond to any safety issues that could arise. Local reservoirs are full and regular ongoing water releases will be required. Monteiro said crews involving CAL FIRE, Tulare County Fire Department, Department of Water Resources and others are all working together to put temporary holds on water in the areas in most need.

Authorities are closely monitoring and actively working on immediate mitigation and relief strategies to strengthen the integrity of levees, berms and water banks. Emergency services are creating sandbag walls in low lying areas, and in other larger areas they are doing large sand bag drops. This is where crews fill large bags with sand and rock and then drop them via helicopter, according to Monteiro.

“All that we’re doing in our emergency operations are for lack of a better word Band-Aids,” Monteiro said. “They’re going to have to come back in and be permanently repaired but right now, they’re just securing the water so it doesn’t flood into our community, or do significant damage to property.”

Currently neither the Terminus Dam spillway nor the Schaffer Dam spillway is flowing. However, this morning the Terminus Dam regular outlet works was releasing at 6,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials also said in a press release there are several ways to be prepared. Sandbag vulnerable structures in low-lying areas and near rivers, creeks, streams, canals or other waterways. Residents can access sandbags at Tulare County Fire Stations, for locations visit, https://tularecounty.ca.gov/emergencies/.  In the city of Porterville, sandbags can be found at the Porterville Corporation Yard located 1265 W. Grand Ave. And in Visalia, sandbag locations can be found at: https://bit.ly/drycenter_sandbags.

Residents can sign up for emergency notifications to receive direct alerts in case an evacuation notice is issued for their area. To receive emergency alerts directly from the county of Tulare and the city of Porterville, sign up for AlertTC at https://www.alerttc.com/.  To receive emergency alerts directly from the city of Visalia, sign up for text alerts by texting “VISALIA” to +1844-713-7830. For Spanish text alerts, text “Español” to +1844-713-7830.

It is important for individuals to know they should never drive into flood waters as they are deeper, colder and faster-moving than they appear. CIty and county officials also warn against operating electrical equipment in standing water.

According to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux has issued an evacuation order for all homes and businesses in the Alpaugh and Allensworth area. His call for the order is due to the possibility of residents becoming isolated due to impassable roadways as a result of the recent flooding events throughout the area. The evacuation order would consist of all roads, avenues and access roads within Alpaugh and Allensworth.

The Evacuation Warning area would consist of Avenue 88, south on Highway 43, to Avenue 16, west on Avenue 16 to the east side of the Tulare/Kings County Line at Road 16, north to the Homeland Canal, northeast to along the Homeland Canal to Highway 43. To evacuate from these locations, please drive southbound on Highway 43 to Cecil Avenue, in Delano. Highway 43 northbound is closed due to flooding.

The current evacuation route at this time is to take avenue 54 westbound to Virginia avenue to 6th Avenue. Then take 6th avenue northbound to Utica avenue, Utica avenue westbound to Interstate 5.   Please note northbound 6th avenue is closed at Quebec, with other roadways becoming impacted by flood water. Additionally 6th avenue southbound to Garces Highway is also covered in water.

Residents in the Allensworth area are recommended to take Palmer Avenue eastbound to Highway 43, Highway 43 southbound to Garces Highway, Garces Highway eastbound to Highway 99 northbound.

Sheriff Boudreaux urges people to stay clear of the waterways due to increased river flows.

Current Damages

The CAL FIRE Tulare Unit continues to update the public via their social media with an updated damage report since the start of the incident on March 8. The unit includes, CAL FIRE, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Visalia Police Department, Porterville Police Department, Tulare County Fire Department, city of Visalia Fire Department and Porterville Fire Department.

So far to date, throughout the county there have not been any first responder fatalities, but two injuries. There have been approximately 23,921 structures threatened. Of those, 300 have been affected, seven have been destroyed, 652 have major damages and 177 have minor damages.

These assessments are ongoing and there are still areas that are inaccessible. Incorporated areas are collecting data separately. According to Kylie Arce with the city of Visalia, Visalia has not seen too much damage, but does not have specific numbers as of press time. The city of Porterville did not have specific numbers as of press time either.

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