Rain and snowmelt have led Merced County to declare a state of emergency due to flooding, which local elected officials viewed from the air during a helicopter tour on Friday afternoon.
The county declared a state of emergency Thursday evening and issued evacuation warnings at the Merced River Campground Resort in Delhi, officials said. At the time of the Sun-Star’s deadline Friday, evacuations had yet to take place and there were no reports of injuries or severe property damage.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno; state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Assembly member Adam Gray, D-Merced; and county Supervisor Lloyd Pareira went up in sheriff’s helicopter Sable 5 with Sheriff Vern Warnke as soon as conditions permitted Friday afternoon. The officials assessed flooding in the county, particularly at creeks and other waterways, for planning purposes.
“We want to make sure we have everything in line,” Warnke said. “We don’t want to play catch-up if things go sideways.”
Regional flooding from high creek flows was reported at various locations in the county, and crews were working to repair creek banks and pump water away from homes.
Major flooding typically is delayed a few days as water and debris make their way down water channels from higher to lower elevations, said Jeremy Rahn, deputy director for the Merced County Office of Emergency Services.
Officials are keeping an eye on the Mariposa foothills and Pacheco Diablo areas and the Army Corps flood-control reservoirs on the east side of the county. On Friday, most major roadways in Mariposa were flooded, and many were impacted by rock and mudslides, the Mariposa-area California Highway Patrol office said.
Key areas to watch include the Merced River watershed and the San Joaquin River, which converge in the Stevinson and Hilmar area, Rahn said.
“It takes awhile for the water to actually get to that point, but we’re preparing to make sure to keep right on top of it and notifying residents in the event they do have to evacuate,” he said. “The state’s seeing a lot of water right now, and we’re just trying to manage it the best we can.”
Cannella said the current flooding highlights the state’s need for more water storage in wet years to supplement dry years, comparing this wet winter to the past five years of drought.
“This is an indictment on the state of California,” Cannella said. “This is the perfect example of the importance of water storage.”
Gray noted that California’s water-storage capacity has increased by only 1 percent in the past 50 years.
“For the long term, we’ve got to fix our broken water system,” Costa said.
The Merced County Emergency Operations Center was activated and will remain activated until the weather subsides. The county Office of Emergency Services is prepared to open shelters if conditions get worse. The county is working with the Human Services Agency and Red Cross in case any residents need aid.
Sandbags are available in the county and all cities. Visit www.countyofmerced.com for sandbag information.
Residents are asked to follow emergency signage and not to drive onto flooded roads.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477
County road closures
- Highway 59 between Sandy Mush Road and West Dickenson Ferry Road
- Sandy Mush Road from Highway 59 to Henry Miller Road
- Reilly Road between Highway 59 and Tyler Road
- Healy Road between McNamara Road and Sandy Mush Road
- Rose Garden Road between Orchard Road and Schmidt Road
- Whitworth Road between Cottonwood Road and Romero Road
- South Bert Crane Road at Bear Creek