🔥 Residents of flooded California town face decision to flee

Residents of flooded California town face decision to flee

A pool of floodwater covered Perla Estrada Espinoza’s frontyard. She walked in sandals through the muddy water.

Estrada said she’s worried that water from a coming storm could climb higher toward the doorstep of her mobile home.

“We don’t see a solution,” she said, adding that she has been asking local emergency workers for help.

Her son, Juan Espinoza, walked through shin-deep water on the dirt road in front of their home.

“One day to another, it just got really bad,” he said.

Allensworth is one of many San Joaquin Valley towns on edge amid major flooding in rural communities from surging rivers and breached levees.

With more rain falling this week, there are concerns the flooding could get considerably worse.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday ordered evacuations in Alpaugh and Allensworth after a nearby levee breached. At least one official indicated the breach may have been caused by someone intentionally cutting through an earthen barrier with machinery.

The breach near Allensworth has been temporarily repaired, but officials are unsure if it will hold.

Allensworth lies on land where rivers once fed Tulare Lake before it was drained to serve agriculture in the early 1900s. The latest storms have sent floodwaters surging through canals and ditches and flowing across farmlands toward the old lake bottom in Tulare County.

Espinoza said he had been using a small pump to try to clear water from the yard.

He also used a shovel to dig trenches, trying to create a path for the water to drain away.

“But it didn’t help at all,” Espinoza said. “We’re just trying to get this water out.”

A red Mazda was marooned in the water in the frontyard. To get the car out, Espinoza backed a Nissan truck into the water, chained the stranded car to the tow hitch and pulled forward. The Mazda’s rearview mirror snapped on a metal fence, and the bumper broke off, but the car rolled out of the water onto the road.

The family had loaded sandbags in a pickup and were preparing to lay them down to build a barrier along their front fence.

In the late afternoon, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crew arrived with picks and shovels, walking in two lines. They stopped beside the pool of water on the road as their captain gave orders, explaining how they should dig trenches.

“We’ll just keep opening it up,” he told them. “Let’s get some water flowing.” The 15 men, who belong to Ventura Crew 2, started digging, piling mud by the family’s front fence. The water began to dissipate. The crew worked into the evening as dark clouds gathered on the horizon.

Estrada and her husband, who works at an egg farm, have been living in the unincorporated community for about a year. Their drinking water is contaminated, so they usually buy bottled water.

But she said they had run out.

She said she had packed a bag and was ready to evacuate if the water keeps rising.

“I’m not going to wait for it to rise more,” she said.

But she said she would prefer to stay, because “if I go, they’re going to steal what little we have.”

Roads were dry in other parts of the community, and residents were preparing for the rains under sunny skies Monday afternoon.

“I think God got us covered,” said Raymond Strong, a 67-year-old resident. “My faith is strong, but it’s still a little anxiety.”

Strong said he is mindful of the dangers because his grandfather died in 1979 floods along with another man.

Officials across the Central Valley have urged residents to be cautious in the coming days as flood concerns heighten.

At least seven homes in Tulare County have been destroyed by floodwaters, primarily in Springville, while 62 structures have suffered major damage and 177 had minor damage.

Evacuation orders were also issued for parts of Exeter, Cutler, Teviston and Porterville and extended Sunday afternoon along the Tule River.

Strong said he plans to remain at his home through the storm, but he had filled his truck with belongings just in case. He said that if he and his wife need to leave, they might stay with a relative nearby. “If it gets bad, we have someplace to go,” Strong said.

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