California storm devastates all those in its path

Flood water in California

Ritu Jha-

Gurdayal (Gary) Singh has been living in Planada, California, for the last 22 years, but, he says, he has never seen a storm like the one ever. America’s largest state is experiencing one of its worst ever flooding events, forcing Singh to shut down his gas station.

On the morning of Tuesday, Jan 10, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke issued an emergency mandatory evacuation order due to rising flood waters in Planada, a town with a population of about 4000.

Singh owns a couple of gas stations, but the one impacted due to the flood is in Valero on Highway 140. Singh said his gas station was flooded, but this shop – constructed at a higher level – was spared.

Singh told indica, “Water started rising after Monday midnight, flooding the area. When we went in on Tuesday morning, there was no power.” Even though the shop escaped the flood water, the items inside will get damaged on account of loss of power. “I am also worried about break-ins,” Singh said.

Singh’s gas station is a 10-15 min drive from his house in Merced county. Though he has power at home, most of his friends and acquaintances don’t. “Most places are in two-feet deep water and some of the houses are flooded.”

Thanks to the flood, schools are closed and businesses have been impacted.

“Closing the gas station means no business, but we have to deal with this,” Singh said. “Hopefully the power [electricity] will come back Thursday.” County authorities, though, have warned of more heavy rains on Friday.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on January 11: “With 17 deaths in California from an endless “parade” of atmospheric rivers causing catastrophic damage, Governor Newsom warns Californians to stay vigilant.”

Through a press release, Newsom stated, “We’re not out of the woods – we expect these storms to continue at least through the middle of next week with a minimum of three more atmospheric rivers hitting our state. California is soaked and even an inch more of rain can bring catastrophic impacts like flooding and mudslides. These conditions are serious and they’re deadly and we want all Californians to be mindful and follow all guidance from local emergency responders.”

Another Merced resident and Indian grocery shop employee Sukhvinder Kaur told indica that she has had to take a different route to come to work. She said “There is no flood at home, but it’s flooded in many places. It’s hard to commute, but we have to work.”

According to on Monday, “Flooding led to the closure of Childs Avenue between G Street and Highway 59… The California Highway Patrol shared a picture of a messy spinout near Livingston, warning people to avoid driving through current weather conditions unless you absolutely must.”

Kaur said her friend’s house was flooded. “She lives near Bear Creek, where the water is high.”

Jasjit Singh, the second Vice President for the Sacramento City Unified School Board, spoke to indica. “The storm has been very damaging here in Sacramento. More than flooding, it was the record-breaking wind and rainfall that concerned us the most. We had multiple trees blocking roadways, downed power lines, non-functional traffic lights, and more.”

Singh said that at the peak of the storm, close to 400,000 people were without power here in the Sacramento region. The Sacramento City Unified School District serves over 40,000 students. The weekend storm left multiple school sites without power and some with tree and debris damage from the wind.

The National Weather Service had forecasted damaging wind and rain on the night of January 8. “Noting the danger associated with navigating downed trees, power lines, and non-functional traffic lights, we made the safety of our teachers, students, staff, and community our priority and closed schools for Monday, January 9,” Singh said. “This also gave us an additional day to get power to our school sites, along with additional time to make any necessary repairs and preparations.”

Singh said he and his colleagues provided over 1,000 hot meals via mobile pickup to students on Monday. “School reopened for nearly all our students on Tuesday, January 10. Five school sites were still without power during the morning of the 10th, but at this time those sites have been repaired as well. However, all students are back in school as of Wednesday, January 11.”

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