The Merced County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency on Thursday following recent storms that damaged roads and bridges.
The heavy rainfall on March 22 shut down a portion of Highway 59, damaged a bridge on La Grange Road between Fields Road and State Route 132, and caused localized flooding around the county. The damage was even worse in Mariposa County, according to officials.
The Merced supervisors' designation this week prepares Merced County to accept emergency funding if it's made available by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to Mike North, the county's spokesperson.
With more rain in the forecast, North said, the county is bracing for more challenging weather.
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"We have sandbag locations available and Merced County Public Works crews are preparing for the weather system by clearing out storm drains in unincorporated areas," he said in an email. "The county, cities, irrigation districts and other partnering agencies are holding daily (emergency services) calls to collectively prepare for the weather system."
Damages in Merced County had not yet been tallied, North said, noting high water levels made some areas difficult to assess.
Merced Irrigation District warned residents this week of "high flows" along Merced River thanks to the looming storm and melting snow. The conditions could lead to "dangerously-fast currents along the waterway," MID said in a statement.
So emergency responders say people should stay out of the water.
Rivers and canals may look inviting as the weather warms, but they're dangerous, according to Merced County Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich.
“(T)hese channels are not there for swimming or rafting," she said in a news release. "Their purpose is to carry high volumes of cold, fast-moving water downstream. We do not want any tragedies this year. Please stay safe and stay out of the river.”
Crews in the city of Merced cleared drains and gutters and checked drain pumps this week to prepare for the rainfall, according to city spokesperson Mike Conway.
Mariposa County is also still recovering from the storm that caused two people to go missing, both of which are presumed dead. A man and a woman were believed to be swept away by flood waters in separate incidents in Mariposa County. The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday there were no new developments.
The storm washed away road sections and caused widespread destruction, said Mike Healy, the county's public works director. The storm was a "100-year storm" that has cost about $4 million in damage, he said.
Central Valley residents can expect to see a break from the storms on Sunday and Monday, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service. Another storm system on Tuesday and Wednesday next week may miss the region, staying up north.
Merced County officials ask residents to sign up for the Merced County Emergency Notification System at www.countyofmerced.com/alert and follow Merced County on social media for storm preparedness updates.