Tulare County culverts likely cause of severe damage to woman's driveway

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Tulare County resident Patricia Miller has essentially been blocked from her home, due to heavy flooding and erosion on her driveway. (KFSN)

Tulare County resident Patricia Miller has essentially been blocked from her home, due to heavy flooding and erosion on her driveway. She says the problem started weeks ago, and that it's the county's fault that the damage has become so severe.

A warzone would be one way to describe what her property near Three Rivers looks like, after intense January storms, and what she says was the county's failure to maintain and clear their culverts.

Instead of traveling down ravines and to the river, Miller says the rainwater came pouring down the hillsides and onto her property, and the damage became more devastating as the days went on.

"The water started rushing down the driveway, and then onto the property, and then it started digging out under the asphalt and then the road started falling," Miller said.

Since she can't come and go, Miller has been staying with a friend in Visalia.
Meanwhile, a man who lives on her property is stuck unless he hikes out.

"The flood that has happened onto the property itself has now exposed underground electrical lines that go to my well, and now my well is not working so he's not going to have water," Miller said.

Miller, who owns cows, says some have strayed from the property after fences were washed out. It's also not exactly easy to get feed to them either.

"(It was) one of those absolute oh my God moments," said Deanna O' Leary, Miller's friend.

O' Leary has been helping Miller work through the problem, which they say was brought to the county's attention a month ago, but was basically ignored.

O' Leary has since reached out to two congressmen and two county supervisors.

"To be stranded off from not just your home and your animals, but your pets, your property," O' Leary said. "And every week you know when you go up the next weekend, oh my god I don't know what I'm going to find and every week it's expanded."

On Wednesday, county officials came back to assess the problem, where they found a handful of clogged culverts up the road. Thursday, crews cleared those culverts.

A contractor will start repair work on the road soon, with the help of an anonymous donation.

But Miller says the county needs to reimburse those costs, and right now, she says she's being directed to file a formal claim to determine if that's even possible.

In a statement, Tulare County's Resource Management Agency Director Reed Schenke said:

"These recent storms have caused challenges throughout the state and county. We are committed to working with the property owner to help overcome the issues caused by rain in amounts that we haven't had in years."

As for previous visits to check out the problem, Schenke says crews didn't have authority to go on Millers' property, and it was difficult to identify the source of the problem at the time because it wasn't raining, and therefore water wasn't flowing.

Schenke says the county understands there is an urgent need at Miller's property, but that he does not believe the culverts were ignored.

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