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When It Rains, It Pours. Finally.

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

2022 went out with atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones, bringing wave after wave of heavy rain, wind, and snow to the Sierra to start the New Year. Now that we have a break in the action, we checked in with some of our members for their take on this crazy weather.

Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Sierra Mac River Trips usually does their season prospectus for water conditions on April 1, and a lot can happen between now and then, but with current snow-pack at over 200% for this time of year, Tom McDonnell is predicting a high water season similar to those we experienced in 2011, 2017, and 2019.

“We are excited for the higher water conditions for 2023 whitewater rafting season. The extraordinary weather and 'bomb' cyclones that have hit the Sierra Nevada have provided abundant snowpack in our watershed,” said McDonnell. “The Tuolumne will have elevated conditions throughout the first half of the season. With the big water on the Tuolumne, it will likely put the river over 5000 cubic feet per second, making it a class 5 adventure. This also means our Class 5 Upper Tuolumne/Cherry Creek season will likely start in July this year if the conditions hold.”

According to McDonnell, during the highwater on the Tuolumne, the 18 miles moves much faster and Sierra Mac raises their minimum age requirement to 14. If you are looking for a prime time to raft the Tuolumne at its best flows, you should aim for the middle of May through the beginning of July. Family trips should aim toward the end of July - Labor Day, September 4th.

Angels Camp-based OARS is another long-time Chamber member operating locally on the Tuolumne Merced, American, and Stanislaus Rivers and organizing adventures as far afield as Fiji and the Galapagos Islands. VP of Marketing Steve Markle sums it up: "As river runners, it's hard not to get excited about all the snow and rain we're getting and the prospects for some degree of drought relief and a return to average or above average flows for the rafting season. We're optimistic our community can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at us this winter. Happy New Year!"

On the flip side, all this rain can wreak havoc on our homes, businesses, and properties. In a rural community like ours, it is not uncommon for septic systems to back up after, or even during, heavy rain.

How do you know if your septic system is stressed, especially if you’re a remote owner and/or have a short-term rental property and can’t eyeball it yourself? Some signs are: surface water is ponding in the drain field area, drains are not draining quickly, toilets flush slowly or make strange gurgling sounds, water is backing up at the lowest level drain, like a downstairs shower. Chamber member El Dorado Septic Service advises directing runoff water away from your leach field and keeping rain gutters clear and free of debris. Make sure you have a clean-out valve installed at the lowest drain site to relieve the system. Minimize the load on your septic system until the drain field has had a chance to dry out.

Growing reports of property damage prompted Tuolumne County to declare a local state of emergency on January 4; it was ratified by the Board of Supervisors on January 9, but is help on the way?

Photo: Tuolumne County OES

Tuolumne County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) Coordinator, Dore Bietz said, “We have been communicating with Cal OES on initial damage assessments. Cal OES uses these damage assessments in determining whether to place counties on the state’s emergency list. As yet, neither Tuolumne nor Calaveras counties have been added at the state level.”

While Bietz’ office has received initial damage assessments from local government and public entities, no calls have come in from businesses or residents. “We encourage any business or property owner that suffered damages related to the storm to call our office at 209-533-6395. We would need the damage, estimate of repair, address, date of damage and if possible pictures of before/after the damage.” She added that if Tuolumne is added to the Cal OES list as requested by Governor Newsom, an announcement and further information would be forthcoming.

Thankfully, in a small community like ours, help can be just a shout away. Lori Reynolds, co-owner of The Grove Mercantile, a new business owner and full-time resident of Groveland, was touched by the outreach. “We are so grateful to the local business owners and friends that checked in on us during the storms. It was so encouraging to feel the support not only business to business, but from sweet citizens in the community. How lucky are we to live in a town that helps each other and shows brotherly love.”

Click HERE For more information on 2023 Winter Storms Recovery from Cal OES.

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