San Joaquin Valley counties, some still drying out from last year’s floods, brace for another round of heavy rain, snow

February 2, 2024
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
by Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Water in the Tulare County town of Woodlake Feb. 1, 2024. Numerous Woodlake homes flooded last year and some residents are still rebuilding. COURTESY: Joshua Diaz
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Jesse Vad, SJV Water

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As another storm barrels toward California, local officials are warning residents to stay up to date on weather conditions and be prepared in case of flooding, power outages or other emergencies. 

An atmospheric river will bring widespread rain and gusty winds throughout the San Joaquin Valley starting Saturday night. The storm will last into Monday, bringing heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas and one to three inches of rain in the valley. 

Staff from local sheriff’s departments, fire departments and emergency operations offices have been meeting and prepping in case the storm causes flooding or other emergencies. 

Kings County

In Kings County, the best way to get current information is through the Sheriff’s Department phone app which can give warnings about severe weather impacts, such as flooding, 45 minutes ahead of time, said Dave Robinson, Kings County Sheriff. The app can be downloaded here for iPhones and here for Androids. 

Robinson urged residents to call local law enforcement if they see flooding or other storm-related problems such as downed trees.

Some areas on the west side of Kings County and the Lemoore Naval Air Station are hot spots when it comes to flood risk, said Robinson. 

“We’re not overly concerned because we’re so early in the snowpack buildup,” said Robinson. “For these next couple of storms we just really need that roadway awareness.” 

Since Kings County is further downstream from the dams, it’s not a major flash flood region, said Abraham Valencia, Kings County Office of Emergency Services manager. 

About 4,000 acres of the Tulare Lakebed is still submerged from last year’s floods, he said. That’s down from 100,000 acres at its peak last year. There aren’t any expected impacts to the lake or levees protecting Corcoran and Stratford from the upcoming storms. 

“Where we would be in trouble is if we started to see the atmospheric rivers back to back,” said Valencia. 

Since there aren’t multiple atmospheric rivers one after the other as in 2023, nobody is expecting devastating impacts, said Valencia. 

Kern and Tulare counties 

The Kern County Fire Department also wants residents to sign up for its alert system going into the storm. 

Residents can sign up for notifications here.

“We recommend that the residents of Kern County not travel during severe weather events, if at all possible,” said Jonathan Drucker, public information officer with Kern County Fire. 

Drucker also said people should be prepared for power outages with enough water, food and flashlights to last through the weekend. 

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux emphasized that any households that flooded last year should prepare with sandbags. 

The town of Woodlake, which saw some neighborhoods inundated with water, has already seen flooding in the same areas, said Boudreaux. 

Madera County

Staff from Madera County’s Department of Water and Natural Resources sent out an email with links to stay up to date on weather conditions. Flooding is expected, according to the email. 

The Madera County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page will help to notify people of current conditions. 

There are multiple locations, available here, where residents can pick up sandbags. Residents must provide proof of address and a shovel. Only some locations have both sand and bags. 

Residents can also sign up for emergency notifications here

Fresno and Merced counties

The situation is similar in Merced and Fresno counties. 

Fresno County staff is warning residents not to drive through any flooded areas and to notify county staff of problems they see during the storms by calling 559-600-4259. Residents can sign up for emergency alerts here

In Merced County, staff from the Sheriff’s Department is paying close attention to Miles and Bear creeks, historic flood-prone waterways that decimated homes last year when levees broke and flooded the town of Planada and other nearby communities.

Staff have been fortifying those waterways with sandbags and tarps, said Michael Domingue, public information deputy for the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.

“Those are our key areas of watch,” said Domingue. “I don’t know if there’s real concern that it’s gonna be like last year.” 

Sandbags are available at multiple locations which are listed here

Heavier rains will most likely hit northern counties such as Fresno, Merced and Madera, said Dan Harty, National Weather Service meteorologist at the Hanford station. Other than the storm this weekend, there isn’t any indication of any other severe storms following yet, said Harty. 

At this point, the San Joaquin Valley has had below average rainfall, said Harty. This weekend’s storm might push the region into the normal range for this time of year, he added.

Jesse Vad, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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