Record rainfall closes roads, prompts evacuations

Record rainfall closes roads, prompts evacuations »Play Video
Highway 178 is closed from the mouth of the canyon to Borel Road near Bodfish due to rock slides. Kern County was hit with a record amount of rainfall, beginning Friday. (contributed photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A record amount of rain flooded roads throughout Kern County, prompting evacuations Monday and an emergency proclamation Sunday night.

Photo gallery: Record rains flood Kern County >>

The rain started Friday. By late Monday, more than 4 inches of rain had fallen in most parts of Bakersfield. Even more rain fell in other parts of the county.

By contrast, Bakersfield's average annual rainfall is about 6.5 inches.

Raw video of the flooding >>

Highway 178 was closed from the mouth of the canyon to Borel Road near Bodfish due to rock slides. People traveling between Bakersfield and Lake Isabella were forced to use Highways 155 and 14 as the alternate route. Only vehicles equipped with chains or four-wheel drive with snow tires were permitted on 155 and 14.

Otherwise, rain mostly left residential areas and smaller city streets under water.

Click here for a list of road closures >>

Just before noon Monday, 2,000 to 3,000 residents were encouraged to evacuate as a precaution in the McFarland area. That evacuation recommendation was lifted Monday afternoon, however.

The Associated Press reported that an estimated 400 to 500 homes in McFarland were in danger at one point, but McFarland police Sgt. Ron Navarreta said there is no longer any threat of flooding.

In the Kern River Valley town of Weldon, 10 people and their dogs had to be evacuated in the predawn hours because of extensive runoff in the area between Kelso Valley Road and Kelso Creek Road, according to the Kern County Fire Department. An evacuation center was set up at the Kern Valley Senior Center.

Sandbags were being handed out at Bakersfield's Yokuts Park, the Shafter Police Department and Shafter City Corporation Yard, Gromer Avenue and F Street in Wasco, and Tehachapi High School.

The city of Bakersfield set up a 24-hour help line. Residents affected by flooding could call 852-7000.

The Bakersfield Public Works Department was available to alleviate street flooding. Concerned residents could call it at 326-3111. The emergency line for Public Works is 327-7111.

Many other communities opened emergency operations centers for those in need of flood assistance. Wasco's center, for example, could be contacted at (661) 364-2230.

For help countywide, residents could call 211.

Some folks tried making the best of flooded streets by swimming or rafting in them. The county public health department warned that the flood waters contain health risks, though. The water covering roads could contain infectious diseases, accumulated oils and gasoline from the roadways, pesticides and fertilizers, pet droppings, raw sewage and other trash, officials said.

Emergency proclamations were declared late Sunday in Bakersfield and Kern County. The proclamations were mainly a procedural move to get paperwork in order in the event the governor declares a state of emergency, according to the Bakersfield City Manager's office.

The rain from this weather system should subside late Monday. Tuesday is forecasted to be mostly dry with some sunshine, but another round of rain is expected to arrive Wednesday. Dry weather should return Thursday, though fog could become a problem in the valley after that.

A flood warning was in effect for most of the county until Tuesday morning.

Weather section >>

Flooding in the Campus Park neighborhood in Bakersfield:

Flooding in Shafter:

Sandbag station at Bakersfield's Yokuts Park: