June 25, 2014

Hit and run driver takes out Chowchilla sign

Driving southbound on Highway 99, one may notice that half of the iconic “Welcome to Chowchilla” sign is missing.

Driving south on Highway 99, one may notice that half of the familiar “Welcome to Chowchilla” sign is missing.

Earlier this month, a pickup truck veered off Highway 99 and hit the sign, bringing it some of it down, said Jackie Flanagan, executive director of the Chowchilla District Chamber of Commerce.

Flanagan said the driver of the pickup reportedly left the scene, and an investigation to locate the individual is ongoing. Authorities believe the driver is a Chowchilla resident, she said.

The city will workwith the California Department of Transportation to develop a restoration plan. But the repair depends on several factors.

First, the city needs to figure out if the driver, once located, has insurance to cover the repair cost. If this is not the case, Flanagan said, city officials will have to decide if they will restore the sign with city funds. And that will depend on whether the city can afford the expense.

The sign was donated by a local developer in 2006. The sign is estimated to have cost about $4,700.

The sign is important to Chowchilla’s image, Flanagan said.

“It lets people know we’re here,” she said. “and it’s one of the first things people see when they’re driving into town.”

Flanagan said the sign offered a glimpse of Chowchilla’s history. It showed a symbolic arch that was located on Robertson Boulevard during the town’s colonization. The arch burned down in the 1930s, but it has remained a town symbol. The arch was flanked by a line of palm trees and backed by a skyline.

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