Small California town submerges under water after storm deluge

This aerial image shows vehicles driving on flooded roads in Merced, California on January 10, 2023.  - A massive storm called

Aerial photos show vehicles driving on flooded roads in Merced on Tuesday. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

The entire community of Planada, a town of about 4,000 people just east of Merced, was evacuated Tuesday morning as water levels rose. From a broken embankment.

By late morning, one street after another was flooded with brown water, cars rocking like boats and drifting near half-submerged stop signs.

Rodrigo Espinosa, the supervisor of Merced County, which represents the area, said they tried in vain to block the water by laying down sandbags Monday night.

After several hours, however, it became clear that the entire community had to be evacuated as water levels continued to rise.

“I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” he said of the flood risk. “And then two more storms will come.”

Country town is in it many communities California has been hit hard by days of rain.

“The county is just laying sand everywhere,” Espinosa said. “But sand can’t do much anymore.”

Alex Martinez, 29, who grew up in Planada and now lives in Merced, rushed in a truck to help his family evacuate.

While waiting for them to load the car, he activated the drone camera and flew east over the town. It revealed much destruction, with grain silos towering above it like a spaceship landing on a desolate landscape.

“It’s really devastating,” said his fiancé, Monica Manzo, 30, who also grew up in Planada. She said she was grateful there were no reports of deaths in town, even though the storm had passed. killed at least 17 people statewide.

Less water creates more problems. About 90 percent of residents in unincorporated communities are renters, and few are likely to have flood insurance, officials said.

“Where are those people going?” Espinosa asked, noting that the area was already facing a housing crisis.

Imagining all the people in his community who are now homeless, Martinez said, “I feel almost hopeless.”

Katie Bass, a 35-year-old Fresno resident who owns San Joaquin Drugs in Planada, was able to drive up Highway 140 to her store on Tuesday morning.

The pharmacy was not damaged, but the power was out. The bus had to get all the vaccines and insulin out “before it got ruined.”

“All the streets were flooded, but some of my employees were evacuated late last night,” she said. “My other employees at Merced can’t go to the pharmacy at all.”

Bass has lived in the Central Valley most of his life and compares the recent storms to those of the 1990s when Bear Creek took refuge.

“I don’t remember Pranada being affected like this,” she said. “We have been running this pharmacy since 2000. There has always been another problem, but it has never flooded. We need to make sure we have flood insurance. There was, but I don’t think it was what we thought.”

This story originally appeared los angeles times.