Evacuations near Central California dam as storm swells rivers, smashes rainfall records

Ruben Vives, Susanne Rust and Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

PAJARO, Calif. — Surging rivers. Sliding rocks. Flooded towns.

The 11th atmospheric river storm of the season left a trail of soggy misery in California as it broke decades-old rainfall records and breached levees this week.

In the Tulare County city of Porterville, residents on both sides of the Tule River were ordered to evacuate Wednesday morning as levels rose at Lake Success, sending water running over the spillway at Schafer Dam.

“The amount of water coming off the hillsides is elevated, and (it has) expedited the need for us to get out of the area,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said in a video update around 1 a.m., noting that officials were going door to door to evacuate residents.

About 100 homes lie between the spillway and Road 284, Boudreaux said. Emergency shelters are open at the Exeter Veterans Memorial Building, Porterville College Gym and Dinuba Memorial Hall.

Lake Success saw a significant increase in inflows over night, with about 19,064 cubic feet of water rushing in per second as of Wednesday morning, according to state data. Visalia and Porterville have declared a state of emergency.


Elsewhere in the state, storm clouds were beginning to clear Wednesday, though many effects are expected to linger.

Nearly 200,000 people remained without power statewide, many in the San Francisco Bay Area, where classes were canceled at more than a dozen schools in Cupertino.

In the Los Angeles area, mud and trees tumbled down a hillside in Baldwin Hills overnight, trapping several cars. On Wednesday morning, as many as 30 vehicles were disabled by about five large potholes on the 71 Freeway near Pomona, according to the California Highway Patrol. Northbound lanes were expected to remain closed until at least noon while the agency worked on repairs.

Multiple daily rainfall records were set by large margins Tuesday, including 2.54 inches in Santa Barbara, breaking a record of 1.36 inches set in 1952, and 2.25 inches in Oxnard, beating 1930’s mark of 1.46 inches. Los Angeles International Airport saw 1.97 inches, smashing a record of 0.43 of an inch set in 1982.


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