Levee breaches late Friday and early Saturday along the Kings River prompted mandatory evacuations and flooded the Kings River Golf and Country Club, the Kingsburg Gun Club and seven structures.
The gun club’s annual trapshooting competition, which had attracted hundreds of shooters throughout California and out of state, was postponed because the trap houses were underwater.
Tulare Fire Capt. Joe Rosa said the first levee breach occurred about 10 p.m. near Hole 18 of the country club’s course, a quarter-mile from Avenue 400 east of Kingsburg. The second a few hours later was near Hole 17.
Ninety homes near the course were under mandatory evacuation order; residents south and west of the course were under a voluntary order, said Teresa Douglass, spokeswoman for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. About 300 people had to evacuate.
Mandatory evacuation areas were Avenue 408 to Avenue 400; Road 28 to Road 32 (Jasper Drive); Avenue 393 to Avenue 400; east of the river to Road 33; and south of the river to Avenue 393.
Voluntary evacuation areas included west of the river bordered by Kings River Drive and Cypress and Bonander avenues, and south of Highway 201.
Water damaged seven structures and 18 RVs, Douglass said. Sandbags are being placed by hand and dropped from the air, she said.
It’s just amazing seeing what happens when a river breaches. It’s something I thought I’d never see.
Homeowner Todd Esajian
Paul Aslan, 53, a five-year member of the country club, donated his boat to help carry sandbags across the water.
“We’re loading my boat and taking (sandbags) to the firemen to repair the banks,” Aslan said. “We’re trying to help the homes, too, so we’re shoveling the sandbags so we can prevent the water from getting into the homes.”
Todd Esajian, 37, who lives near the course, saw his property flood rapidly Saturday.
There was initially a gopher hole near the bottom of an outdoor wall. However, it widened as water started flowing, and his front and backyard flooded.
“The water started getting under the wall and it just started to get out of control from there,” Esajian said.
Sandbags were placed around his home, which was still dry by midday Saturday. However, he said he didn’t know whether he would be able to go back inside Saturday night.
“There’s not much you can do to control it so (I’m) just doing the best in this situation,” Esajian said. “It’s just amazing seeing what happens when a river breaches. It’s something I thought I’d never see.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls flood releases from Pine Flat Dam into the Kings River, made two reductions Friday prior to the breaches, bringing the water flow to 14,200 cubic feet per second, said Randy McFarland, spokesman for the Kings River Water Association.
Pine Flat was expected to reach its capacity of 1 million acre-feet Saturday night, although there is room to hold an additional 13,000 acre-feet, McFarland said.
We’re all sick about what’s happening down there, but it would have been so much worse if the dam had not been built.
Randy McFarland, Kings River Water Association spokesman
Officials must consider how much water is coming into the lake from snowmelt in the Sierra and the lake’s capacity when determining the outflow, he said.
“We’re all sick about what’s happening down there, but it would have been so much worse if the dam had not been built,” McFarland said. “With flows of 20,000 cubic feet per second (coming into the lake), what we’re seeing now would have been nothing compared to what would have occurred.”
Barring any dramatic changes in water flows from snow melt, the Army Corps of Engineers expects to maintain the water flow out of Pine Flat at 14,200 cfs for the next several days, said Tyler Stalker, spokesman for the corps in Sacramento.
Officials are monitoring Pine Flat, taking forecasts and having ongoing discussions, which include considering the impact of water flow on the levee breaches east of Kingsburg, Stalker said.
The state trapshooting competition was postponed from Saturday until July 22-23, said Scot Hopson, a board member and former president. Ground conditions will determine whether the competition is held in Kingsburg or moved to two sites in Redlands and Livermore. That decision will be made by the Amateur Trap Association and the California Golden State Trapshooters’ Association, he said.
The state competition has to be finished by Aug. 1 to qualify for the grand nationals, he said.
This is the first time that the competition, which has been held for about a half-century, had to be postponed because of flooding, to the disappointment of organizers and participants, Hopson said. “A lot of people are involved in putting it on, it’s our biggest annual shooting event,” he said.
The only damage so far to the gun club was the waterlogged trap houses because the clubhouse and other property are on higher ground, he said.
About 400 to 500 shooters had signed up to compete Saturday and several hundred Sunday, Hopson said.
Attendance was somewhat lower this year, possibly because of the triple-digit heat wave that has blanketed the region for more than a week, Hopson said.
Some relief is in sight, said Jim Andersen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Hanford. After triple-digit temperatures Saturday and Sunday, highs are expected drop into the 90s starting Monday and continue through the week. Cloud cover created a bit of cooling and kept Saturday’s high to 102, he said. Sunday calls for a high of 103.
But the best news, Andersen said, is that “it will finally cool down at night into the 60s, so we get a little bit of relief.”
Flood warnings along the Kings will remain in effect until 2 p.m. Monday for northeast Kings County, northwest Tulare County and central Fresno County because of Pine Flat water releases. A flood advisory for the San Joaquin River is in effect until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.