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California city submerged in floodwater. But the residents fear what will happen if they flee.


A puddle of water covered Perla Estrada Espinoza’s front yard. She walked in sandals through the murky water.

Espinoza said she is concerned that water from an approaching storm could rise higher toward her mobile home door.

“We don’t see a solution,” he said, adding that he has been asking local emergency workers for help.

His son, Juan Espinoza, waded through knee-deep water on the dirt road in front of his home.

“From one day to the next, it got really bad,” he said.

Allensworth is one of many San Joaquin Valley towns on the brink of major flooding in rural communities due to rising rivers and breaching levees.

With more rain falling this week, there are concerns that the flooding could get considerably worse.

Tulare County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday orderly evacuations at Alpaugh and Allensworth after a nearby levee breached. At least one official indicated that the breach may have been caused by someone intentionally cutting through a dirt barrier with machinery.

The breach near Allensworth was temporarily patched, but officials aren’t sure if it will hold.

Allensworth sits on land where rivers once fed Tulare Lake before it was drained for agriculture in the early 20th century. Recent storms have caused floodwaters to flow through channels and ditches and flow across farmland toward the former lake bottom in Tulare County.

Espinoza said he had been using a small pump to try to get water out of the yard.

He also used a shovel to dig trenches, trying to create a path for the water to drain.

“But it didn’t help at all,” Espinoza said. “We’re just trying to get this water out.”

A red Mazda was left abandoned in the water in the front yard. To get the car out, Espinoza backed a Nissan pickup into the water, chained the stranded car to the trailer hitch, and drove forward. The Mazda’s rearview mirror smashed against a metal fence and the bumper broke, but the car rolled out of the water and onto the road.

Perla Estrada Espinoza and her husband, who works on an egg farm, have been living in the unincorporated community for about a year. Their drinking water is contaminated, so they often buy bottled water.

But she said they were sold out.

She said she had packed a bag and was ready to evacuate if the water continues to rise.

“I’m not going to wait for it to go higher,” he said.

But he said he would prefer to stay, because “if I leave, they are going to steal what little we have.”

Roads were dry in other parts of the community and residents were bracing for showers under sunny skies Monday afternoon.

“I think God has us covered,” said Raymond Strong, a 67-year-old resident. “My faith is strong, but it’s still a bit of anxiety.”

Strong said he is aware of the dangers because his grandfather was killed in the 1979 floods along with another man.

Officials across the Central Valley have urged residents to exercise caution in the coming days as concerns about flooding grow.

At least seven homes in Tulare County have been destroyed by flooding, mostly in Springville, while 62 structures have suffered major damage and 177 minor damage.

Evacuation orders were also issued for parts of Exeter, Cutler, Teviston and Porterville and extended Sunday afternoon along the Tule River.

Strong said he plans to stay home during the storm, but had packed his truck with his belongings just in case. He said that if he and his wife need to leave, they could stay with a close relative. “If it gets bad, we have a place to go,” Strong said.

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