MANTECA’S AIRPORT COURT and Haven Acres Marina in Lathrop remained under evacuation orders Tuesday as the rain-swollen San Joaquin River continued to threaten properties in the area, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said.
An evacuation warning was first issued Thursday afternoon for Airport Court, which lies along the river in southern San Joaquin County. The river reached flood stage of 29 feet at about 5 a.m. Friday.
The warning is “more of a precaution than anything,” said Heather Brent, a sheriff’s spokesperson, on Friday.
But National Weather Service data showed that the river slowly rose throughout the day, and as it did so the warning for Airport Court and Haven Acres was elevated to a full blown evacuation order at 5 p.m. Saturday, when water began to seep through the base of the levee.
Despite the deteriorating situation, some residents in the areas chose to remain in their homes as surrounding streets became submerged by the seeping river. “Evacuation orders are still in place for both locations,” Brent said on Tuesday. “But we cannot force them to evacuate.”
The San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services has established an evacuation center at the Manteca Senior Center at 295 Cherry Ln., Manteca.
‘This is our stuff’
Trorina Sparks, 64, and her husband have lived in their home on Airport Way for 22 years and had been preparing for an event like this for two months, around the time when the first round of atmospheric river storms hit Northern California.
Residents frequently check the height of the water on the river on the website of the California Department of Water Resources, California Data Exchange Center. There, they can see a chart of the water level on the San Joaquin River at Vernalis.
“We got to know what’s going on,” Sparks said. “Because this is our house. This is our stuff.”
They and some others said they cannot wait for authorities to tell them what is going on. The couple knew at 11:45 a.m. Friday that the river was at 29.16 feet.
Sheriff’s officials took further precautions Friday, closing part of the San Joaquin River to recreational boat traffic.
“The releases of water upriver, combined with heavy rains, have caused the rivers and sloughs in the south Delta to reach extremely high levels on surrounding levees,” sheriff’s officials said in a Facebook post Friday. “Wakes from boats at high tides, could pose a risk to levee stability in some areas.”
Weather officials warned the risk of levee water seepage increases at 26 feet, and the area threatened by seepage increases as the river rises.
“Yeah, we’re gonna be dealing with water for a while,” Sparks said. “And then what happens is mosquitoes and all that kind of crazy stuff.”
A new storm system brought more rain and high winds to the Bay Area on Tuesday. Water levels on the San Joaquin River sat at 20.26 feet near Mossdale and at 29.39 feet near Vernalis, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.