Despite its inclusion in two emergency proclamations issued by Governor Jerry Brown on Monday – as just one of 50 counties to experience heavy rainfall that has caused flooding, mudslides, erosion, debris flow and damages to roads and highways throughout the state — Stanislaus County came out of recent severe winter storms unscathed.
The emergency proclamations issued due to December and January storms direct Caltrans to formally request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program in order to obtain federal assistance for highway repairs or reconstruction. The proclamations also direct California’s Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to local governments based upon damage assessments received from each county.
Due to extreme drought conditions throughout the state, the recent storm system caused dangerous flash flooding, erosion and substantial mud flows dangerous enough to warrant the proclamation. The Governor deemed the circumstances of the storm damage likely to be beyond the control of local governments, requiring the combined forces of a mutual aid.
According to Dale Skiles, assistant director of emergency services for Stanislaus County, Stanislaus will not need to take advantage of the funds made available by the Governor’s proclamations.
“I would say that Stanislaus County weathered the storm very well in the way that we only saw localized flooding,” said Skiles.
Areas on the westside of the county were affected, but very minimally. Some roads and ground property were flooded in the Newman, Orestimba Creek and Patterson areas, Skiles explained, but none of the flooding was great enough to cause substantial damage. Other areas saw damages caused by felled trees and power lines, he added.
“Other than in those areas, we did not see much in the way of damage so we’re very grateful for that,” said Skiles. “There was nothing of significance that met the threshold to request funds.”
Past State of Emergency declarations for the Stanislaus County include proclamations from the Governor in 2011 and 1997, both of which came as a result of severe rain and related storm damage. Federal funding was not needed in 2011, and Skiles was uncertain if Stanislaus County received help during the 1997 flooding.
The County’s Office of Emergency Services continues to monitor flows of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in conjunction with the Turlock Irrigation District, which controls the release of water of the dam at Don Pedro Reservoir. An area that is closely watched for flooding, said Skiles, is the section of the Tuolumne River between Modesto and Ceres.
“In the past that area has always caused concern, but it has been manageable,” said Skiles.
Following the recent storms, the San Joaquin River’s water is currently at the highest point that Skiles has seen in recent years, he said, but hasn’t approached the flooding stage.
“We’re working locally with agencies to help monitor the rivers’ flows,” said Skiles.
For now, the County will continue to observe water levels throughout the area. In regards to the State of Emergency declared throughout the state, Stanislaus County was lucky to escape any considerable damage.
“There were other counties that did see some significant damage due to the storms, so the proclamation (the Governor) made is broad based,” said Skiles. “We continue to monitor river flows and the forecast…there’s the possibility that state funding would be able to support but at this point we don’t anticipate tapping into that.”