MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES–This past weekend’s storm wreaked havoc on our mountain communities in more ways than one. Although we definitely needed the rain and snow, what we didn’t need was the flooding and damage that came with it. Flooding, landslides, trees down, power outages, and more occurred mostly on Saturday, News Year’s Eve when an atmospheric river storm moved through our area. Sierra News Online (SNO) was here monitoring and reporting all day and into the night to help keep people safe.
The rain arrived Friday night, and by sunrise on Saturday, the reports of flooded roads were coming in fast and furious. Highways 41, 140, and 49 all had issues in various locations, and the side roads were even worse. At approximately 10:15 am, The National Weather Service Hanford Office issued a flood advisory for the Sierra Nevada foothills, including Mariposa & Oakhurst, and up to Fish Camp and portions of Yosemite until 1 PM PST due to heavy rain & minor flooding/debris on roadways. They warned to expect 1 to 2 in of rain in the next 3 hours. Ultimately reports of up to 6 inches of rain were received from many in our area.
As the day progressed, the conditions continued to get worse. The next reports included mud and debris slides and roads being closed, like Carter Road in the Oak Fire burn scar. Next came reports of trees and tree stumps sliding onto roads. Highway 41 at Serpa Canyon, Hodges Hill, and Coyote Hollow Lane all had reports of rocks and boulders across the roads.
The snow levels for this storm were relatively high, and it was raining in areas that had received snow earlier in the month. This raised the water levels in the creeks and rivers very quickly. Social media began filling up with pictures and reports of fast-moving, high water.
Some of the worst damage appeared to be happening to the new bridge construction on Road 200 and Fine Gold Creek in North Fork. Initial reports stated that the bridge itself had been damaged; however, after the storm, The Madera County Public Works Department posted an update on its Facebook page.
“Road 200 Bridge Construction Update: The storm over the New Year weekend resulted in rising waters and heavy flows in many of the creeks and rivers throughout the County, including Finegold Creek at the Road 200 bridge construction site. The site experienced some damage to the bridge falsework (the temporary structure to support the bridge construction) and creek bypass pipes, but thanks to the foresight of the contractor (MCM Construction, Inc.) and the County’s Construction Management consultant (CCME, Inc.), the bridge stressing was completed before the storm events and the damage that occurred to the falsework.
While the bridge visually appears to be in bad shape, it is just the falsework (temporary shoring) that was impacted, and the bridge is structurally sound, achieving full design strength and capacity as the structure was stressed on Friday morning (12/30/22). The falsework is no longer required, and MCM will be in the process of removing it in the upcoming weeks, provided they can gain access to the creek.
Work to finish the remaining bridge elements and approach roadways will continue to take place as weather permits to complete the project and get the new bridge open to traffic. The public’s continued patience and understanding are greatly appreciated as we work to complete this improvement to the County’s transportation network.”