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Flood fears along California creek: ‘I’ve never seen water like this before’

Rain was pouring down steadily as Jack Meadors, Riverbend RV Park manager, stood outside and watched the Wild Wood Creek that runs through the park constantly fill with rain.

Since 7 am, Meadors said, he had watched the water level in the creek rise, about 5 feet deep. At 9 am, the creek was already beginning to overflow. Residents who had chosen to stay behind began to change their minds, dragging their RVs across the bridge before officials closed it down.

“It came up fast,” Meadors said as he stood outside the park office near the creek. “There’s still all this rain coming…Once the snow starts to melt, and if it rains more than that, as they’ve said, then we’ll have a lot more.”

Most of the 60 or so residents had already evacuated or moved to the other side of the bridge in case they had to leave quickly, Meadors said. He spent Thursday helping residents move their trailers and motor homes. But on Friday morning, some were still trying to decide if they should leave while the bridge remained open.

“We tried to warn them in the last few days,” Meadors said. “So we’ll have to see.”

The first of two atmospheric river storms descended on California on Friday, prompting widespread evacuation orders as it flooded streams and rivers and dumped heavy warm rains on top of the state’s near-record snowpack.

Fresno County sheriff’s deputies also stood around the arm of the creek Friday morning as they monitored conditions at the Sanger trailer park, which is often an area of ​​concern for flood risk. The park sits just east of the Kings River, which officials are also monitoring for flooding.

But it was the creek that worried residents because once it reached the top of the bridge, officers closed off the access and those on the other side were trapped until rescuers arrived, Meadors said.

Shanna Daggett, an itinerant nurse, took the day off Friday to buy dry food for her dogs and be with them in case water invaded their new relocated place.

Daggett was one of those who heeded Meadors’ early warning. In January, when a storm caused the creek to overflow its banks and wash toward his mobile home, he had less than an hour to pack up and cross the bridge.

This time, he said, Meadors notified them Wednesday to start moving because the rain was expected to be heavier. So he crossed the narrow bridge and parked his truck and RV next to the park’s basketball court.

“I can get my trailer ready in less than 20 minutes. And that’s all I need, I need a 20-minute notice,” Daggett said.

One of his neighbors was not so lucky and was unable to move his mobile home, he said. Bags of white sand were placed around her house in an effort to keep her safe from the rising creek bed.

“I was a little scared…last night. I’m breathing better today because everything is set for me,” Daggett said. “And in the worst case, if I don’t have time, I throw my dogs in the truck and leave. I will leave everything behind.”

Another resident, Arnulfo, was walking nervously through the trailer park as the creek continued to rise.

Arnulfo, who declined to give his last name for privacy reasons, said in Spanish that he had decided to leave after hearing from park management. But he was afraid, he admitted, that all his belongings might disappear.

“Since I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen water like this,” he said as he stood near the stream. “I’m not going to stay. What happens if it floods? It will be more difficult (to get out).”

“I’m afraid of losing all my stuff,” she said. “With water anything can happen.”

Debbie Weaver, 71, stood outside for a smoke during a brief break in the rain. Weaver is from California, but currently lives in Arizona, and has spent the last week looking for houses in the Fresno area to move into.

He found the rain and flood warnings more unusual for the area than anything else, he said. She had already parked her truck and her trailer back near the basketball court near Daggett, but her daughter’s trailer was on the other side of the bridge, motionless but on higher ground.

“There are a lot of people on the move, more than last time,” Weaver said.

“They think it’s going to make it to the basketball court,” Daggett said as he walked one of his foster dogs during a reprieve from the rain.

“You can see how fast it’s peaking,” Weaver said.

“It wasn’t like that 30 minutes ago,” Daggett said. Weaver agreed.

If the creek kept rising, Weaver said, he could hitch up his trailer and be off. But she was worried about her daughter’s trailer.

“Hopefully it doesn’t go up there,” he said. “But I do not know”.