I’ve Been Right In The Middle of the Northern California Flooding Disaster

I5 Flood Near Willows CA

I5 Flood Near Willows CA

It has stopped raining. Here in California we have spent so much time praying for rain that it has felt strange doing a complete about face and instead pray for a stop to the rain. Well, all the rain did not stop and it has caused quite a local disaster in Northern California and difficulties for all our travelers. I have discussed disasters and travel previously here, but I did want to say a few words on the subject again in light of the rain, the Oroville Dam Spillway Emergency and the flooding that has been going on in Northern California this week.

First of all, I really feel horrible for any travelers that were at hotels or visiting people in cities including Oroville, Marysville and Yuba City that had to evacuate due to the Oroville Dam emergency. The evacuation order was extremely frightening. The initial order that went out was THIS IS NOT A DRILL…FAILURE OF EMERGENCY SPILLWAY EXPECTED WITHIN THE HOUR…”. I had been closely monitoring the situation for several days, and the announcement popped up on my Twitter feed and it was so out of the blue and severe that I ran into the next room and showed my husband and said “Is this Fake News? We double checked the URL and turned on the TV and immediately could see that the announcement was for real.

Can you imagine getting that evacuation order as a traveler in our area? At least the local people all know the roads and the ways out of the towns. Plus where do you go? What are the local stations for news on the radio while you’re in your car trying to evacuate (it took some people over 4 hours to get to a safe area). The phones were impacted in this area right after the announcement; it was temporary chaos as the area pulled together to help the evacuees.

I am always somewhat aware of the possibilities of natural disasters or other emergencies while traveling. When I was in Japan in November, there was an earthquake over 7 on the Richter Scale off the coast of Japan; we were in Kyoto so far away from any danger zone but it was quite eerie to wake up to the warnings on TV for evacuation of the coast in case of a Tsunami. My heart went out to the travelers in the zone impacted by that earthquake and tsunami evacuation, especially in light of everyone’s memory of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

When I was in Lake Tahoe this January, we got 5 feet of snow. Yep, 5 feet. Our house and car were nearly buried, and we had to plan our escape out of the area earlier than we planned to leave because another storm was on the way. We are very familiar with the roads and weather patterns in the Lake Tahoe region, but again it was a very difficult situation for most travelers. In many ways that 5 feet of snow was the beginning of the current Oroville Spillway Emergency and severe flooding and road problems we’ve had here in Northern California and Northwest Nevada ever since (HIghway 50, a major road to Lake Tahoe, was closed for days and days in both directions due to massive mudslides, and yesterday part of that road collapsed; 80 was also closed for awhile and it was virtually impossible to get to the area for a couple of days).

Then finally this week we had days of rain and major roads including Interstate 5 completely flooded over; going from Willows CA (where my husband is from) and Williams CA (26 miles!) took over 4 hours as cars and trucks slowly inched across the completely flooded highway. There really wasn’t another option for those travelers; many of the roads they could have used to get to CA 99 were also flooded.

In two days I leave for Japan and I have been very anxious watching the flooding and road closures as all of this is between me and the Sacramento airport (my starting point for the trip). Luckily the giant storm this week moved south a bit so it looks like the roads to the Sacramento airport (SMF) will be accessible from the north; however, there is still flooding coming from snow melt and dam releases this week so I am not totally in the clear. I am hoping that all this water is not too much for our flood systems and levees to handle and the the Oroville Dam Spillway continues to hold up–for me, and for everyone living in the path of the water, and for all our travelers. Stay safe, everyone.

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