Flooding concerns continue in Merced County, officials focus on overrun levees

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Saturday, January 14, 2023
Flooding concerns continue in Merced County, officials focus on overrun levees
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As communities continue to deal with the impacts of excessive water and unstable grounds, many are questioning why northern portions of the Valley were hit so hard and what can be

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- As communities continue to deal with the impacts of excessive water and unstable grounds, many are questioning why northern portions of the Valley were hit so hard and what can be done to help with flooding in the future.

People living in Merced County are looking for relief from the rain, but as saturated grounds remain and more storms to come, there is a stark warning that flooding could continue into next week.

"It's going to be weeks to months before those are drained out enough," said Sheriff Vernon Warnke of Merced County.

In Central California, Merced County was hit especially hard, with many people living in the area forced to evacuate.

Part of the issue, according to a Merced County supervisor and Sheriff Vernon Warnke, are broken levees that feed into a canal in Planada.

Those breaches allowing water to overflow into neighborhoods and farmland.

"We've got other levees here on a different creek that are still flowing, major flowing and they're trying to do everything they can to get big object to put in there," added Warnke.

But it's not just the broken levees in Planada that are a major concern in Merced County. Action news spoke with a National Weather Service Meteorologist who says, Bear Creek is a known problem spot that's prone to flooding.

At just under half a foot from reaching capacity, flooding in northern portions of the valley will be inevitable.

"We are looking at a peak of 22.5 feet, as the flood stage for Bear Creek is 23 feet," explained JP Kalb, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

On Thursday, state leaders came together with the goal of helping Central Valley communities with flood control.

They called for increased funding to provide better water infrastructure and storage capabilities.

"40% of the nation's fruits, vegetables and nuts are grown there and while we lost enough ground water in the last decade to fill more than 44 Lake Tahoe's, our farmers are forced to go to ground water resources," said Assemblyman Juan Alnis, representing District 22.

Experts also explained that it is going to take more than one atmospheric river season to bring dramatic relief, it would take a few years of above average accumulation to balance things out and get us out of a drought.