It’s 1997 all over again to many South Manteca residents with the all-familiar words. Levee break. Mandatory evacuation. Flooding.
Along with those ominous warnings is another word that is adding worry to an already tense situation: looters. Some members of an e-neighborhood group called Nextdoor Manteca South are warning their neighbors about “reports of suspicious vehicles on the lookout for homes that are being evacuated.” The cautionary message is accompanied by information on what to do should one be a witness to such suspicious activities: call and report those observations to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office at 209.468.4400.
There are those who are not even waiting for any such potential activities. These are the people who have “been there, done that” having gone through the 1997 New Year’s floods and similar natural emergencies before that. At the Perrin Road levee along the San Joaquin River, Tony Coit and family as well as several of their concerned friends have been on the lookout for strangers or any suspicious characters running through the “Road Closed” sign on South Airport Way. Not far from the Perrin Road levee is the Hays Road levee area where the levee break occurred Monday night.
At the Manteca Sportsman gun range on South Airport Way, Kevin Reis was doing the same thing. He and another employee have been on alternate guard duty schedule 24/7 since the flooding started a few days ago. The gun-sport facility grounds are already under water. Any visitors are turned away by a chain across the entrance with a notice telling everyone that “all (shooting) ranges (are) closed.”
The Two Rivers RV Park located at the very end of Two Rivers Road and lies smack-dab at the junction of Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers meet is quiet as a ghost town. Several residents in this small and quiet riverbank enclave have already evacuated voluntarily into higher ground last week with the few remaining getting ready to do so on Monday.
The Durham Ferry campus site of the San Joaquin County Office of Education is another deserted area along the South Airport Way corridor. CJ Lamar, whose daughter is a student there, was among a group of parents and their children who visited the campus – or outside the closed front gate – to visually assess the situation along the levee on Monday as well. Lamar said the school, which has a combined enrollment of about 150 students (100 high school and about 50 elementary), is closed this week. In fact, it has been closed since Wednesday last week due to the flooding emergency.
With the mandatory evacuation being enforced Monday night, several residents’ sandbagging efforts seemed to be unnecessary. Several houses near the river levees on South Airport Way and Division Road have also deployed their heavy farm equipment to build berms around their property should the flood waters rise even higher and become a threat.