Flooding remains dire concern in California, with more rain forecast

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Days after the latest heavy storm passed through, rising waters are continuing to spur evacuation orders and flood warnings across Central California — and still more rain is forecast for early next week.

In Porterville, residents in two areas along the swollen Tule River have been ordered to evacuate, and the stretch of river between them spanning about 5 miles is under an evacuation warning.

Overflow from nearby Lake Success upstream has already flooded dozens of homes in the area. Snowmelt from the mountains is feeding the frigid floodwater, which was waist-high Wednesday in some homes near a breach in the Tule River.

“Right now the dam is in good working order — there’s no threat to the structure of the dam — but we have significant water coming off of the spillway,” Carrie Monteiro, a spokeswoman for the Tulare County Emergency Operations Center, said Wednesday of Schafer Dam on Lake Success.

The city of Porterville declared a state of emergency as crews from the Army Corps of Engineers worked to shore up the dam, using a helicopter to drop sandbags.

On Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the San Joaquin River west of Modesto near Vernalis.

“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads,” the warning said. “Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”

Visalia is under a state of emergency through Monday due to the potential for flooding from a near-capacity Lake Kaweah.

The lake sits between Three Rivers and Woodlake, where significant flooding has already occurred. Some residents in the area question whether new housing developments that replaced orchards and a creek bed are to blame.

A new storm, which would be the 12th atmospheric river to hit the state this rainy season, is forecast to bring precipitation to Central and Southern California starting Sunday through Wednesday. Peak rainfall and snow is expected Tuesday.

In Central California, residents can expect about half an inch of rain along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, said Jim Bagnall, a meteorologist with the weather service in Hanford. The valley’s east side will see 1 to 2 inches, and the foothills will see 2 to 4 inches, he said.

This water, combined with snow falling on the already blanketed Sierra Nevada, could add to flood concerns.

In Southern California, residents should expect a “long period of steady light to moderate rain” totaling 1 to 3 inches, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard.

By Wednesday, snow will accumulate at elevations around 3,000 to 4,000 feet, including at the Tejon Pass.

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