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Merced resident fears looting with floods possible again

By Ben Morris,

2023-03-15

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MERCED, Calif. ( KSEE/KGPE ) – The City of Merced and Merced County were on watch once again Tuesday, with the latest round of inclement weather on the way to the region.

Parts of the county, like Planada and Merced, were decimated by floods back in January.

Thankfully some good news for Merced residents Tuesday, as officials expected Bear Creek to fall a few feet short of the 23-foot flood stage, by early Wednesday morning, but either way, preparation was in full-swing Tuesday.

The creek, along Bear Creek Drive, was heavily fortified with sandbags and barriers by Merced Public Works and Cal Fire. Residents put up their own defenses as well, like something out of a war movie.

If the water does hit 23 feet, many of the people who faced damage in January’s flood could face it again.

“As we look at what the forecasting has for this evening, there is still a chance that we can hit 23 feet. In the last storm, there was a point where we were off by about four feet from the forecast and it caught everybody by surprise,” said Merced Fire Chief Derek Parker.

That’s why Merced Fire and county officials have asked residents to stay ready and people are doing just that, like Mariya Nelson, who has a house on the edge of Bear Creek.

She tells us she and her family were forced to evacuate her home for over three weeks in January.

“When we came back there was three feet of water in my house. And mind you, I have a whole bunch of kids, and all our stuff was completely damaged, ruined. Everything had to be gone,” said Nelson.

The water was not the main concern for Nelson this time around, she said it was the looters.

In January, Nelson said while she and her family left during an evacuation order, looters came in and cleared out over $5,000 worth of belongings that included silver passed down generations.

“All these places that are supposed to be evacuated, when they announce that, it’s a free-for-all for all the people that are looking to take. And they think because we have nothing, they have something,” said Nelson.

The Merced Police Department’s spokesperson says they cannot confirm any looting, but confirm patrols are increased in areas that face possible evacuations during these types of storms.

Elsewhere around the county, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said a flood was expected on the Merced River near Stevenson.

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