Rain was falling steadily on Friday as Riverbend RV Park manager Jack Meadors stood outside and watched the creek that runs through the park fill with rain.
Since 7 a.m., Meadors said, he had seen water levels rise in the 5-foot-deep Wild Wood Creek. At 9 o’clock in the morning, it was starting to overflow. Residents who had chosen not to evacuate changed their minds and began transporting their motor homes across the bridge before authorities closed it.
“It came fast,” Meadors said as he stood outside the park office, which is near the creek. “You have all this rain still coming. … Once it starts to melt that snow, and if it rains more than that – which they said, then we’ll have a lot more.
Most of the park’s roughly 60 residents had evacuated or moved across the bridge Thursday in case they needed to leave quickly, said Meadors, who spent the day helping move trailers and RVs . But on Friday morning, some were still trying to decide whether to go.
“We’ve been trying to warn them for the past few days,” Meadors said. “Then we’ll just have to see.”
The first of two atmospheric river storms battered California on Friday, prompting widespread evacuation warnings and orders as it flooded streams and rivers and dropped warm, heavy rains on the near-record snowpack. of State.
Fresno County sheriff’s deputies also stood around the creek arm Friday morning as they monitored conditions at the Sanger RV park, often a risk of flooding. The park is just east of the Kings River, whose officials were also monitoring for flooding.
But it was the stream that caused the most concern because once it crossed the bridge, deputies would close off access – and those left on the other side would be trapped until rescuers arrived , said Meadors.
Traveling nurse Shanna Daggett took the day off to buy food for her dogs and be with them if water got into her relocation location.
Daggett was among those who heeded Meadors’ early warning. In January, when a storm caused the creek to overflow and back up to her RV, she had less than an hour to pack up and cross the bridge.
This time, she said, Meadors told residents on Wednesday to start moving because the rain was expected to be heavier. She crossed the narrow bridge and parked her truck and RV next to the park’s basketball court.
One of his neighbors was not so lucky and could not move. White sandbags were packed around her mobile home in an effort to protect it from the rising creek bed, Daggett said.
“I was a little scared…last night. Today I’m breathing better because everything is set for me,” she said. no time, I just throw my dogs in the truck and leave. I will leave it all behind me.
Arnulfo, who declined to give his last name for privacy reasons, said in Spanish that he decided to leave after hearing from RV park management. But he was afraid, he admitted, that all his things would be taken away. He walked nervously as the stream rose.
“Since I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen water like this,” he says. ” I am not staying. What if there are floods? It will be more difficult [to leave].
“I’m afraid of losing all my things,” he says. “With water, anything can happen.”
Debbie Weaver, 71, stood outside for a smoke break during a short break in the rain. Weaver is originally from California but lives in Arizona, and she had spent the past week looking for homes in the Fresno area to return to.
She found the rain and flood warnings unusual for the region. She had already parked her truck and RV by the basketball court near Daggett, but her daughter’s trailer was sitting across the bridge, motionless but on higher ground.
“There’s a lot of people moving, more than last time,” Weaver said.
“They think it’s going to happen on the basketball court,” Daggett said as he walked one of his dogs during a respite in the rain.
“You can see how quickly it maxes out,” Weaver said.
“It wasn’t like this 30 minutes ago,” Daggett agreed.
If the creek kept rising, Weaver said, she could hitch up her trailer and drive away. But she was worried about her daughter.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t go up there,” she said. “But I do not know.”
By noon, Daggett and Weaver were among those who had made the decision to leave the park. Some people stayed, Daggett said, but water was already flooding the picnic areas and was only inches from her trailer when she left. The dog park was flooded by a foot of water, she said.
Desiree Balladarez, 41, was sleeping on the bank of the Kings River when a fire official woke her up.
“I hadn’t come out of my tent yet because everything was just wet and I was just tired,” she said. “He pulled me out of my tent and said, ‘Come see how high the water is here,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s really close to us here.’ We could have been swept away.
Balladarez, who is homeless, said the water was a few feet from his tent.
On Friday afternoon, she was among the few people staying at the Sanger Community Center, which had opened as a Red Cross shelter. Balladarez sat next to her sleeping cat, Baby, who was in a kennel, while three dogs sat quietly in their cages.
She said she plans to ride out the rest of the storm under cover and return to her tent near Reedley Beach after it passes.
“I can’t wait to see how green everything will be,” she said.