Officials plan for possible evacuations in Inland Empire as atmospheric river brings rain to area

Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Officials plan for possible evacuations in Inland Empire
Officials plan for possible evacuations of parts of the Inland Empire as an atmospheric river begins bringing heavy rain to area.

COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- With heavy rain approaching the mountain communities - up to six inches in some areas - officials are warning some residents that they may have to evacuate if flood waters begin to rise to certain levels.

One such potential community are those in the homeless encampments along the Santa Ana river bottom, where many floodwaters may stream into as the storm gets underway.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday officials sent a text alert to all cell phones located in the river bottom area telling the people in the area to leave the vulnerable spot.

Officials say they have sent similar messages several times this year, which have actually reduced the number of rescue operations they have to conduct.

"The Santa Ana River, one of our points of concern is the homeless population that lives in the Santa Ana river bottom," said Shane Reichardt of the Riverside County Emergency Management Department. "So, what we've done is send out wireless emergency alerts, and most of those residents do have cell phones, and so they do get those alerts. They've been very effective at letting people know that there is rain coming and encouraging people to get to higher ground."

But not everyone living in the river bottom is receptive to warnings of incoming rainwater.

Larry Aguilera, a security guard in Colton, said the people in the encampments he has spoken to don't want to listen.

"That's dangerous, yeah, yeah," said Aguilera. "I want to explain to them, but they don't want to listen."

"When it gets this high to your chest, forget about it. You're gonna go with it. It's gonna take you," Aguilera continued.

Some other areas of concern are the El Dorado and Apple fire burn scars, where officials say they don't think rain will reach levels of evacuation, but residents near those burn scars should be prepared to leave at any moment just in case.

"We are always concerned, now the ground is saturated," said Reichardt. "Even though rainfall rates are below our thresholds, we do have concerns about the saturation, and we want to make sure we're keeping an eye on it and monitoring for potential impacts. We really encourage people living near those burn scars to be ready for evacuations at almost no notice."

Storm brings complications to snowy mountains

The latest storm is bringing rain to the mountain communities that got snowed in over two weeks ago. That's causing concern as homeowners deal with collapsed roofs, snowmelt and possible mudslides and flooding.

Several structures in Crestline had roofs that collapsed as a result of heavy snow, combined with rain from last week.

Meanwhile, first responders continue to help residents who are still trapped inside their homes and they're inspecting building to make sure they're safe.

The latest storm is bringing rain to the mountain communities that got snowed in over two weeks ago.