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Modesto prepares for the Tuolumne River to rise above flood stage as storm batters Northern California

Residents living along the Tuolumne River in Modesto were continuing to prepare for rising floodwaters Tuesday morning.

Dylan Douglas Hamlin, 21, was spending the morning packing his remaining belongings to leave the Driftwood Mobile Home Park in Modesto, which sits along the riverbanks. 

“We lost all of our stuff, man,” Hamlin said. “We lost our clothes, our shoes.” 

Hamlin hoped to drive the trailer to higher ground by noon, just as emergency officials are expecting the river to continue its swell above flood stage.

The rising water was the result of continued storms in Northern California and the release of water down the spillway of Don Pedro Dam for the first time in nearly two decades.

Emergency officials began releasing water down the spillway Monday to prevent the reservoir from overflowing, and the water is expected to cause the river alongside the mobile home park to rise to 60 feet by mid-afternoon, further overflowing its banks.

Katie Whitley, who manages the mobile home park, said people nearest to the river have been moving their trailers out since the start of the weekend. Residents had fled about 15 of the park’s 74 spaces by early Tuesday, she said.

“We’re just holding our own,” Whitley said. “That’s what we have to do. You just have to hope for the best. But you can expect it when you live on the river.”

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department deputies were at the park Tuesday morning and have been notifying residents and others living nearby of the flood risk and potential power outages, department spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said.

At 3 p.m. Monday, water was flowing from Don Pedro Dam’s spillway at a rate of 18,000 to 30,000 cubic feet per second and is expected to continue for at least four days.

The river has far exceeded its monitoring stage of 50.5 feet, said meteorologist Mike Kochasic of the National Weather Service in Sacramento. The weather service expects it to rise above its 55-foot flood stage Tuesday. 

“It’s usually below 50.5 feet,” he said.

Flooding worries are hitting much of Northern California as rain battered the already inundated region much of Monday. Monday night, San Joaquin County officials ordered evacuations of 200 to 300 residents after a levee breach along the San Joaquin River, according to Lantz Rey, a spokesman for the city of Manteca Fire Department.

Emergency crews were continuing work to repair the levee on Tuesday, and the evacuation order remained in effect.

Increased flows have county officials on high alert, Rey said. Water from the spillway is expected to reach San Joaquin County on Wednesday.

“We’re monitoring levees throughout the entire county,” Rey said.

Rain was falling on and off in Modesto on Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service is predicting more rain in Northern California throughout Tuesday, with another quarter-inch possible in Modesto. The rain is expected to continue but taper off through Wednesday.

liam.dillon@latimes.com

Twitter: @dillonliam

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UPDATES:

11:40 a.m.: This article was updated with residents’ preparing to evacuate.

8:55 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from the National Weather Services on the Tuolumne River’s flood stage.

This article was originally published at 6 a.m.

The headline on an earlier version of this post said the Tuolumne River was set to rise 60 feet. It's expected to rise from a monitoring stage of 50.5 feet deep to above its 55-foot-deep flood stage.
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