County weathers major storm
High winds and strong rain battered Plumas County last weekend, closing several local roads as well as Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon, and cutting power to more than a thousand.
“All local emergency responders did a great job,” said Jerry Sipe, the county’s director of emergency services. Sipe opened the emergency operations center at 9 a.m. Sunday to help coordinate resources, but was able to close it by 3 p.m.
“That’s the nice thing about winter storms,” he said. “We knew it was coming and we were able to prepare.”
“Everything went pretty well,” Public Works Director Bob Perreault said. “To be sure, it was a major event, but the ground was able to absorb part of the storm.”
Joe Blackwell, the deputy director of public works, said that the county was lucky that there wasn’t already a snow load on the ground.
“That’s the difference from ’97 (a storm that caused massive flooding). Back then there was snow, then rain fell at 7,000 feet,” he said.
Still, county road crews worked around the clock to clear culverts and remove downed trees and debris.
Blackwell said that Stampfli Lane in Indian Valley and the west end of Chandler Road in Quincy, both low-lying areas, were closed due to flooding.
Stampfli Lane was particularly hard hit with downed power poles and lines lying across the road due to high wind and saturated earth.
Blackwell said that crews will spend the week working on ditches and culverts, as well as traveling the unpaved roads in the county to see what repairs need to be made.
The city of Portola weathered the storm unscathed. Its public works director, Todd Roberts, reported nothing unusual for the weekend, though crews were ready to respond.
From the storm’s first rain on Wednesday through Sunday, the California Highway Patrol responded to a variety of calls including 12 reports of rocks in the roadway, five downed trees and five reports of downed power poles and lines. One vehicle rollover also was reported.
Paul Moreno, of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., reported that 600 customers in Taylorsville, Greenville and Crescent Mills were without power because of a broken pole as of 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The outage occurred at 3 a.m. Sunday and initially impacted 900 customers, but 300 customers had their power restored less than two hours later. Full restoration was expected by Monday evening. In the Bucks Lake area, 270 customers lost power at 9:40 p.m. Sunday due to a tree coming into contact with a line near the dam. Moreno predicted that power would be restored by Monday afternoon.
Moreno also reported that 16 customers on the south shore of Lake Almanor lost power at 1 a.m. Sunday, with restoration expected by Monday afternoon as well.
Additionally, a handful of single customers experienced power outages during the storm.
Canyon dwellers likened the weekend’s storm to the winter of ’97, with flooding in low-lying areas such as Howells Road, east of Belden.
Little Indian Creek also flooded, damaging trailers, buildings and some vehicles.
Debris from the Chips Fire choked Little Indian Creek and a small lake formed behind the blockage. Eventually pressure sent the trees and water downstream, damaging a culvert and altering the creek. Caltrans crews mined rock from the serpentine section of the highway and used it to rebuild the creekbed.
PG&E asked the CHP and Caltrans to close a portion of Highway 70 on Saturday night to allow the power company to open floodgates from three hydroelectric dams along the North Fork Feather River.
Although opening dam gates is not expected to raise river levels to the highway, PG&E asked the state to close the highway as a precaution.
PG&E will keep the gates open during the storm runoff period to safely allow the water runoff to move through the river naturally.
The National Weather Service predicted another storm for midweek that is expected to bring one to three inches of rain to the county.
“We are only expected to get a couple of inches of rain and not the wind,” OES Director Sipe said. “It won’t be comparable to what we just experienced.”
Staff writers Laura Beaton and Will Farris contributed to this report.