Storm causes major flooding in Merced County, Highway 59 remains closed

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Storm causes major flooding in Merced County, Highway 59 remains closed
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Heavy rain drenched the Merced area on Saturday, causing uncontrollable flood waters.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Heavy rain drenched the Merced area on Saturday, causing uncontrollable flood waters.

By Monday, some parts of Highway 59 remain underwater, and what looks like a roaring river remains along the side of the roadway.

"Remember that just because you're inside your vehicle, you're not invincible. If the road is closed or there's any standing water, turn around and find a different route," said Merced County Deputy Sheriff Chris Chilton.

The Merced County Sheriff's Office is keeping a close eye on the flooding, checking on people who live in vulnerable areas and evaluating the saturated soil from the sky.

A view from the sheriff's helicopter Sunday afternoon showed the reservoir in Le Grand full of water.

"I've seen it worse, but it is something we have to monitor. It's these breaks in the weather we're experiencing right now that are really going to tell the tale for the next 24-48 hours," said Chilton.

The break in the rain is helping the water subside.

On Sunday, Bear Creek was overflowing with water. Over 24 hours later, the water level is significantly lower.

"It's been quite a few years since I've seen it this full. The kids have never seen it so they wanted to see it, we came out here to check it out," said Kenny Locken, a resident.

The high tide is a sight these residents aren't used to in drought-stricken Central California.

"It's also scary because so many people are at risk. Yes, the farmers need the rain but the ground can absorb just so much all at once," said Theresa Poole, who lives in the area.

Another problem created by the storms were the potholes left behind in the roadways.

"Oh my gosh! Just yesterday we saw potholes that were really hazardous," Poole said.

Now residents and authorities are bracing for whatever the next storm might bring.

"We'll have to wait and see. See what God has planned for us here," Robert Poole said.

If you approach a flooded road, don't try driving through it. You don't know how deep that water is.

In the case of Highway 59 between Reilly and Sandy Mush roads, officers that will remain closed for days.