Planada flood victims told to leave temporary shelter, officials working on possible extension

Vince Ybarra Image
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Planada flood victims told to vacate temporary shelter
Dozens of flood victims moved into housing that's typically used by migrant farm working families.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of flood victims moved into housing that's typically used by migrant farm working families. They believe they're being told to move out because the homes need to be ready for those farm workers to use this season.

Now, the evacuees are facing the fear of where to go next because their homes are still unlivable.

"It's hard cause the smaller babies won't understand," said flood victim Vicky Pantoja.

Fighting back tears, she said her family lost everything from the flood that hit Merced County in early January.

She still remembers the look on her kids' face when they realized they won't be going home anytime soon.

Pantoja and her family have been staying at the Felix Torres Farm Worker Family Housing Center in Planada.

Merced County agencies worked with the USDA to turn the seasonal housing units into longer-term shelter for flood victims for 45 days.

Pantoja said she recently received a notice to vacate by February 28th.

"We still need more time in order for us to have our homes back," said Pantoja.

She's not the only one.

Anna Ramirez said her family was separated by the flood, but they are now reunited.

She said her husband is sick, and they need more time before they can move.

"At least another month, at that's what I would need to at least get our situation better." said Ramirez.

Officials at the Merced County Administration office said they are working to help people who are still displaced. The hope is to let them stay just a little longer.

"We are looking at options to maybe extend that or provide other resources for those people right now," said Merced County spokesperson Mike North.

The clean-up efforts continue in Planada, including contracted crews using grappler trucks to clear out the devastation left behind.

Meanwhile, FEMA representatives stationed at the Sacred Heart Catholic church will be relocating after today. But they plan to keep a strong presence in Planada.

"We are relocating our disaster recovery center," said FEMA spokesperson, Maria Figueroa. "But right now we are still in Planada."

Since Wednesday, a mobile FEMA unit has been near a popular park in Planada, with staff members knocking on doors making sure people have what they need.

Figueroa said FEMA will continue to be around for as long as there is a need. She tells me a new location for the disaster recovery center will be announced in the coming days.

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