The Tulare County Board of Supervisors declared a local health emergency March 14 due to floodwater contamination amid winter storms.

March 14, 2023 — Tulare County Board of Supervisors

Documented by Dani Huerta

What happened: Amid the latest round of winter storms, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors declared a local health emergency Tuesday morning due to floodwater contamination and heard requests for assistance from Cutler residents.

Fire Chief Charlie Norman said they have received about 400 emergency calls for assistance since last Thursday and have entered into a Unified Command where nearby counties work together on solutions. He said they are currently operating as a Type 3 Incident Command Team, but could change to a Type 1 if conditions worsen.

Their primary concerns are the Tule River and Kaweah River near Schafer Dam, as well as restoring access to isolated communities such as Camp Nelson and Ponderosa.

Resource Management Agency Director Reed Schenke said that at the peak there were about 100 road closures and they estimate there are about 20 sites with permanent damage.  For road issues and non-emergencies, the county advises residents to call 559-647-0000 and for property damage call 559-802-9791.

Cutler: During the public comment period, Jesus Ventura of Cutler said it is unsanitary where he lives and he has not received any help. He said that his family needs dumpsters

Another Cutler resident, Juanita Martinez, said her family has evacuated and asked how they will know when it is safe to return. She said that she has lost trust in the canal and has lost everything.

Supervisor Dennis Townsend encouraged her to go to a shelter and contact the Red Cross if it is not safe to return.

Supervisor Eddie Valero asked if the Housing Authority has helped her and families in her area. She said they told them to talk to the county instead.

Supervisor Larry Micari said residents should attend the Housing Authority meeting because they have their own board.

Up next: The Tulare County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. on March 21.

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