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California residents prepare for major flooding as snow melts

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Lluvias nieve California inundaciones
  • California residents prepare for major flooding as snow melts.
  • Many have already started evacuating.
  • Authorities are warning residents in the danger zones to take precautions.

Authorities warn that possible heavy rains or warm weather could melt so much snow from the mountains that a deluge of water may overflow the rivers and canals that surround a rural community in central California called the Island District, according to the AP and Publimetro.

Ron Caetano has already packed up and is ready to go. He has his family photos and valuables in a trailer along with bags of groceries. He moved his rabbits and chickens and their automatic feeders to higher ground so they don’t drown as he prepares for evacuation.


rainy snow California flooding
AP Photo

He, his family and their dogs could be out in less than an hour, they estimate, should heavy rains or hot weather melt so much snow from the mountains that the mass of water overflows the rivers and canals that surround their rural community in central California and which give it its name, District of Islands.

“The water will come here,” said Caetano, who created a Facebook group to help organize his neighbors. “I am preparing for the worst and praying for the best, and that is all we can do,” they reported all this about the rains and snow that would wreak havoc in California with flooding.

Rains snow California floods: RIVERS, THE GREAT DANGER

natural phenomenon United States
AP Photo

After more than a dozen atmospheric rivers dumped epic rain and snowfall over California, a reservoir storing water upstream is slated to receive triple its capacity in the coming months. Caetano and his neighbors in the wooded Island District, home to a school, pistachio orchards, and horse ranches, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, could soon be cut off or flooded by rising rivers.

Water managers are concerned that spring snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada is so massive that the North Branch Kings River will not be able to contain it and carry it out into the Pacific Ocean. Much of the water is also being channeled into the southern branch of the river, which meanders around the area near the small town of Lemoore to fill a vast basin.


rainy snow California flooding
Photo Shutterstock

More than a century ago, that basin was a huge body of freshwater known as Tulare Lake, the largest lake west of the Mississippi River. Its water level increased in winter with the melting of snow in the mountains. Over time, settlers built dams and diverted streams to irrigate crops, and the lake dried up. Now, Tulare Lake only reappears in the wettest years, like this one, covering what is now a wide swath of farmland with water.

David Merritt, general manager of the Kings River Conservation District, said the Pine Flat Reservoir, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) upstream, can hold up to 1 million acre-feet (1,233 million cubic meters) of water, but it is expected to receive more than 3.7 billion cubic meters (3 million acre-feet) this spring from snowmelt. Officials have been forced to increase the flow of water out of the reservoir to fit more, Merritt said.


natural phenomenon United States
AP Photo

«Once it reaches full capacity, there’s too much pressure on those conduction channels,» Merritt explained. «It’s a current that’s moving very fast and it’s very deep right now.» In one week, more than 200 people volunteered to help neighbors online, and the group’s website received more than 4,000 hits. “It’s going to be four months of nervousness,” Oliveira commented.

Residents of the Island District have revived a decades-old neighborhood network for the first time since 1983 to help each other in the event of a crisis. The last time the district’s Property Protection Partnership was activated, there was no text message or email to quickly spread news, said Tony Oliveira, a former county supervisor and network administrator.

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