Work to repair damage from deluge continues

Photo by Rigo Moran

Portions of highways, some bridges in Tulare County are Sequoia National Park are still closed due to heavy rain the last two winters

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK – From Sequoia Park to the old Tulare Lake bed, local authorities recount the same story. A deluge of biblical proportions, including heavy rain and storm runoff, in the past year in the Kaweah, Kings and Tule basins has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the region’s road and bridge infrastructure.

A series of atmospheric rivers, particularly in March 2023, sent floodwaters from the foothills streaming down to the valley floor, gushing through the streets of small communities in Tulare and Kings County and into the western part of the basin, re-creating historic Tulare Lake near Corcoran. At its peak last summer, the lake sprawled over 111,000 acres, still a fraction of its historical size of nearly 512,000 acres (800 square miles), and five to seven feet deep.

“We all prayed for rain. We just all prayed a little too hard,” one source remarked.

Today, prayers, shovels and hot weather have brought the lake level down to about 1,000 acres after it submerged farmland, roads and bridges for months.

Tulare County damage

Damage in Tulare County included repairs to 3,000 miles of rural roads and washed out bridges even as the floodwaters receded. The county reported they had identified 225 locations in need of critical emergency repairs as a result of the storms. Damage was estimated at $46 million by Tulare County Resource Management Agency Director Reed Schenke. The county hopes that FEMA will reimburse for many of these repairs, most of which have been complete or at least scheduled.

Still a year later, government agencies continue to struggle to repair the extensive damage requiring federal funding to make it happen. Much has been done but there are ongoing efforts. Visitors still can’t travel to the top of Highway 190 despite CalTrans allocating $27 million to repair the damage mile by mile hopefully before Memorial Day, the start of the busy tourism season.

As of April 4, CalTrans says Highway 190 is closed from Camp Nelson Road in Camp Nelson to Quaking Aspen Camp near Ponderosa due to emergency repairs.

Road work in the Park

In Sequoia National Park, repairs to the major roads are complete or underway with some roads still closed due to the damage. The North Fork Bridge is closed. The road to Crystal Cave is closed until further notice. The General’s Highway between the two parks is already open with 21 sites repaired. After months of closure at Wuksachi Lodge, the park’s main hotel is now open for the season. At the entrance to Kings Canyon, Grant Grove accommodations are now open.

For those who love the alpine beauty of the Mineral King Valley, there is more good news. The National Park Service plans to make repairs to 25 miles road of Mineral King Road that have been closed for the past year and allow the remote valley to open for visitors after Memorial Day this year. Already 18 sites along the road have been repaired. Campgrounds along the road are expected to open as well as the Silver City Resort, park spokesperson Sintia Kawasaki-Yee said. Early in the summer season there may be construction delays on the road.

The second more extensive repair of the road is scheduled for the next few years.

Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon will open for visitors for the first time in a year and the park hopes to open sections of Redwood Canyon as well. With a beautiful stand of sequoia trees in this area, damage from flooding was minor compared to the damage from horrific wildfires that destroyed thousands of mature giant sequoias in the past year. Hazardous tree removal will be happening at various sites around the Park.

This month there is one major construction project on the General’s Highway to be aware of between Hospital Rock and the Giant Forest area. The construction project is estimated to take eight weeks and will include closure for the first four weeks between April 15 and May 10 and delays for the second four weeks.

More to Come

In a surprising forecast released April 15, NOAA is predicting wet weather for the last week of April in Central and Southern California. The news comes after a wet weekend across much of the state that dropped 2 to 3 inches on the coast, 1.25 inches in Fresno and 8 to 12 inches of snow in the Sierra above Fresno. Dry weather is expected until then with a warming trend across Central California through April 18.

High temperatures this week will be near normal for this time of year. Maximum temperatures across Central California Thursday afternoon will be 5 to 10 degrees above normal for this time of year. Slight cooling is expected into the weekend but temperatures are still forecast to be 3 to 7 degrees above normal for this time of year.

National Weather Service in Hanford suggests the above average forecast for the end of the month may not mean a lot of rain since this late in the season we typically do not expect much but it could still be “above average.”

For snow players, China Peak will be open April 19-21 and April 26-28.

Start typing and press Enter to search