Battered Merced residents confront twin threats: Pounding storms and persistent thieves

Terry Castleman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

MERCED, Calif. — In recent weeks, Merced neighbors Mariya Nelson and Beth Lee took on more than just rebuilding their storm-battered homes.

After a series of break-ins, they're now the de facto neighborhood watch for a well-to-do strip of homes that runs along a road abutting Bear Creek, which has flooded multiple times in recent weeks during California's series of storms.

They were forced from their homes in early January when more than 3 feet of water displaced them.

Then came the burglaries. Nelson, 33, counts at least seven attempts on her home.

"We got hit hard," she said.

Rain and strong winds inundated Merced on Tuesday, with some areas under an evacuation warning and the threat of more damage on the horizon. Sandbags line the entryway of Nelson's home, and a tarp covers a portion of the roof, which collapsed in recent downpours.


She said she'd been in this house "almost 25 years, and we've never ever had anybody break in." Now, with another evacuation warning issued for her neighborhood, Nelson saw break-in attempts increase.

Nelson said a would-be thief parked in her driveway Tuesday morning in daylight and approached her house. The individual only ran away, she said, when she appeared at the door.

"My house is full of kids," she added, and she fears for their safety.

Lee, 53, is no stranger to disaster. She lost her previous house in the 2020 Creek fire and used the insurance proceeds to buy her current home.


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