Early Monday the floodwaters of Willow Creek were just feet away from Candi Lewis’ mobile home trailer.
She lives at the Bass Lake Mobile Home Park. That park, plus homes on Church Street, came under evacuation orders early Monday as water from Willow Creek flooded the area.
Those areas sit at lower elevations in the town, and sheriff’s deputies worked for hours before the evacuation orders to warn residents that they should prepare to leave.
A sheriff’s deputy knocked on Lewis’ door around 1 a.m. Monday and told her to evacuate.
“The water was just a few feet from my trailer,” Lewis said. Her trailer sits on the edge of the park near the fast-moving creek that had spread well beyond its usual boundaries.
But by the time she woke up around 6 a.m., the water had receded about 6 feet, and it no longer was raining. As of 11:30 a.m., she had not yet evacuated, but was attempting to move her trailer to higher ground.
Lewis said Willow Creek was only a puddle when she moved in a few years ago. These days it typically has water moving through it, but “not this much and not this fast.”
Elsewhere in the park, children played in a wheelbarrow. Men talked outside their trailers. Cars were parked throughout the neighborhood.
What began as a pre-evacuation advisory at 7 p.m. Sunday was raised to an evacuation warning by the Madera County Sheriff’s Office later that night, then elevated to mandatory evacuations at 1 a.m. Monday.
On Sunday night, a cashier at the Gas N Stuff store on Road 222 said sheriff’s deputies arrived at the store around 7:30 p.m. to issue the pre-evacuation notices.
The cashier, who would give only her first name, Jessica, said she signed evacuation forms where she listed names, phone numbers and addresses of store employees.
Jessica said Sunday night that it had been raining in North Fork nonstop since about 3 p.m. that afternoon. The woman said she lives in the area and was ready to go if she needed to, with important papers and clothes packed in her car.
“Just ready to hit the road if we have to,” she said, adding she is used to leaving her home in an evacuation due to fires that had previously burned in the area.
Tia Hartsock, a waitress at the community’s Pizza Factory restaurant, said she hadn’t yet received the pre-evacuation advisory, but added that employees at the pizza shop were aware of how to evacuate if they had to. Hartsock said her mom sent her a text message warning about driving on bridges amid rising rivers in the area.
On Monday, Jessica Piffero, public information officer for the American Red Cross, said the shelter at Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church (50443 High School Road) was staffed and ready for evacuees.
Piffero said domestic pets such as cats, dogs, and birds were welcome at the Oakhurst shelter through a partnership with the Central California Animal Disaster Team.
Volunteers at the Red Cross shelter in Oakhurst said no one from North Fork had checked in as of 12:30 p.m.
Only two people were using the shelter Monday afternoon – a couple who had been in Yosemite.
Volunteers were alarmed when the woman’s purse started moving as they were checking into the shelter. It turns out the purse contained her pet guinea pig. The Animal Disaster Team then helped the furry little guy into much nicer accommodations: a roomy cage with food and water.
The shelter will remain open until the evacuation orders are lifted.
North Fork evacuation
An evacuation warning remained in effect for these North Fork areas:
▪ Road 222 between Railroad Grade Road and Road 200
▪ Road 226 between Keller Road and Road 222
▪ Manzanita Lake Drive
▪ Central Camp Road between Road 222 and one-half mile west of Road 274
▪ Road 225 between Road 222 and Road 274
▪ Road 228
▪ Wah-up Way
▪ Kunigib Way
▪ Amber Lane
▪ Weatherly Lane
▪ Willow Creek Drive