The worst may be yet to come. California Department of Water Resources officials predict that the snowpack will drive more runoff into the Tulare Basin than the atmospheric storms that have already inundated the area.
Peak flows on the major rivers feeding the Tulare Basin — including the Kings, Kaweah and Kern — are expected to arrive in May or June, David Rizzardo, a department hydrology manager, said during a media briefing Tuesday.
Each of these rivers historically flowed into Lake Tulare, which disappeared after farmers diverted and diverted so much water from the late 1800s that it dried up. The lake periodically reappears during the extremely wet seasons.
This week, during a lull between damaging winter storms and the spring meltdown, communities attempted to assess flood risk this summer and strengthen their defenses.
“We’re taking advantage of the dry weather,” said Savanna Birchfield, a public information officer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who responded to the crisis.
Birchfield said rescue workers were working to build a critical road between Allensworth and Alpaugh, two towns already hit by damaging floods. Raising the roadway is intended to provide residents with a safe escape route should they need to flee. Workers are also strengthening levees and building portable muscle wall barriers to control future flows.
In nearby Kings County, residents expressed fear and concern over what is to come over the next few months during a community meeting on Wednesday.
“We don’t know how much we’re going to get and when we’re going to get it, but it’s coming and we want to be prepared for when it’s there,” said Doug Verboon, a Kings County supervisor.