An intense storm took over the Mountain Area on Tuesday, causing flooding along the Fresno River in Oakhurst, at Willow Creek in Bass Lake, and forcing mandatory evacuations in North Fork while emergency crews performed safety checks throughout the community.
Within a few hours, starting around 11:30 a.m., rivers and streams began to swell across the mountains as light rains turned into a monstrous deluge, filling waterways up to or above normal capacities.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for North Fork on the east side of Church Street and at Bass Lake Mobile Home Park around 3:20 p.m.
At 2:42 p.m., Madera County officials reported that an earthen dam on Lewis Fork of Yosemite Forks, near Sugar Pine north of Oakhurst on Highway 41, was in danger of failing.
Evacuation warnings were issued for Cedar Valley as a result. Other flooded areas included in the warnings were Lake Side Drive, Cedar Place, Deer Run Trail Road, and Lazy Oak Drive.
Shortly before 3 p.m., the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst, along Indian Springs Road, was also evacuated as the Fresno River continued to rise. The river became so strong at times that it carried away large yurts from High Sierra RV, causing them to crash into the bridge on Crane Valley Road (426) across from Sierra Tel.
The yurts were later removed by first responders, with help from Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Sierra Tel.
Along China Creek near River Park Road in Oakhurst, the floods became so powerful they overwhelmed a nearby apartment complex.
Around 2 p.m., residents of the area stood on higher ground, watching as crews from Sierra Pines Property Management, which oversees the facility, put pumps in place to try and drain the growing puddle.
“I’ve never seen this before,” Amanda Sainz said. “It’s never been this bad. When it first started I thought for sure we were going to be flooded out.”
“Back in 1997 was the last time I saw this,” said Nigel Topper, associate property manager of Sierra Pines. “Not since El Niño have we seen anything like it.”
The apartments had to be evacuated later Tuesday as the pumps were unable to keep up. The water rose several feet high, flooding into homes and carrying out couches, bicycles, and other property.
A flood watch from the National Weather Service was upgraded to a flash flood warning for the Sierra Nevada from Yosemite to Kings Canyon national parks, mere hours before streams and rivers swelled past capacity.
Shortly before noon, PG&E cautioned residents to be ready to evacuate in North Fork and surrounding areas. The company said it would be forced to again increase flows from Bass Lake as the storms gained strength in a similar move to last month, which also forced evacuations in North Fork.
A shelter was set up at the Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church by the American Red Cross, 50433 Road 427 in Oakhurst, with all potential evacuees advised to head there as needed.
The storms appeared to slow around 4:30 p.m. More heavy rainfall was forecast to begin Thursday in the Mountain Area.
From a 24-hour period ending 4 p.m. Tuesday, 4.18 inches of rain reportedly fell in North Fork, alongside 3 inches in Mariposa, and 2.5 inches in Oakhurst. Nearly 5 inches of rain fell in 12 hours in some areas.
In Yosemite National Park, El Portal Road/Highway 140 was closed temporarily due to water and debris flowing over the roadway. It was reopened around 2:30 p.m.
No major injuries were reported in Eastern Madera County throughout the torrential storm. Madera County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Tyson Pogue thanked several agencies for their help.
“We are very lucky to have such wonderful first responders that are able to rally together like this to take care of the community,” Pogue said.
Pogue gave his thanks to Madera County’s Public Works, Public Health, and Road departments, Cal Fire, the American Red Cross, investigators from the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, CHP, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Citizens on Patrol for their assistance.
Roadway hazards (3:45 p.m. Feb. 7)
The California Highway Patrol listed the following roadways as hazardous:
☆ Highway 41 and Serpa Canyon Road (mud, dirt, and rocks)
☆ Highway 41 and Cedar Valley Drive (southbound lane blockage)
☆ 53000 block of Road 432 (mud, dirt, and rocks)
☆ Timberview Road and Road 223 (roadway gave way to debris)
☆ Highway 49 and Indian Rock Road at Miami Creek (flooding)
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office warned people to stay away from the following roads due to flooding:
☆ Road 432 at Angel Falls in Bass Lake
☆ Road 426 and Civic Circle
☆ Hidden Falls Road
☆ Lewis Creek at Shady Lane
☆ Scenic Drive
For updated weather forecasts, visit www.sierrastar.com.