Flood fears renewed as California braces for another storm
TRACY, Calif. (AP) — Some Northern California residents are preparing for another powerful Pacific storm by patrolling levees for signs of danger, reviewing evacuation plans and filling hundreds of sand bags.
One resident near Tracy, which is 80 miles east of San Francisco, said that though the levees appear in good shape, they decided take charge after the San Joaquin River started rising.
"We have a levee response team, a sand bagging team, teams to check on what walkers checking on the levees find," said San Joaquin River Club resident Paula Martin, who is helping coordinate emergency plans for the private neighborhood of 800 homes.
Martin said the neighborhood has sirens in the clubhouse and at a church that can warn residents of impending flooding.
"Our community is pulling together like real champs," she said, adding that volunteers have been patrolling the levees every two hours.
The area saw rain and wind Sunday afternoon but forecasters said a storm packing a bigger punch will reach the San Francisco Bay Area overnight before moving to the Central Valley.
The San Joaquin River at a measuring station near Vernalis — about 10 miles southeast of Tracy — remained Sunday at "danger stage," meaning it keeps approaching the top of levees, said Tim Daly, a spokesman with San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services.
"When the water gets that high and more water is coming, there is just too much pressure and levees can break," Daly said. "They can be topped."
Another area of concern is the Don Pedro reservoir, which officials said was at 98 percent capacity on Sunday. The reservoir captures water from the Tuolumne River, a key tributary of the San Joaquin.
Meanwhile, water was receding in the farm community of Maxwell, about 70 miles north of Sacramento, where dozens of people sought higher ground Friday after creeks topped their banks and inundated houses. Crews used boats to rescue residents from the low-lying neighborhood. Officials advised residents to be ready to evacuate.
"We're telling those people to keep a bag close by and get ready to leave again," said Colusa County Assistant Sheriff Jim Saso Saso. "If the water comes back up, it's going to be those areas affected."
About 60 miles east, the water level continued to fall at Oroville Dam, where a damaged spillway had raised major flood concerns and prompted the evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend. The amount of water flowing down the spillway was increased from 55,000 cubic feet a second to 60,000 cubic feet a second Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the storm, the California Department of Water Resources said. Last week, outflows were at nearly 100,000 cubic feet a second.
During recent storms, authorities up and down the state have dealt with overflowing creeks, mudslide threats in foothill areas blackened by fires, road collapses and hundreds of toppled trees in neighborhoods. At least three people have died.