A torrential downpour overwhelmed Ripon’s storm system flooding streets, forcing manhole covers to pop up, and causing a number of cars to stall.
The fast moving storm started at 5 p.m. Wednesday and dropped 2½ inches of rain on Ripon in just two hours. Ripon Consolidated Fire District personnel said by 5:30 p.m. their phones started ringing reporting already disabled cars stuck in roadways. There were multiple vehicles stranded with motorists trapped inside who had to exit through windows.
The mess was made worse by commute traffic from the Bay Area that has been avoiding the 120 Bypass congestion by taking backroads from Manteca into Ripon to reach Highway 99 found themselves driving into flooded streets and intersections being met in the runoff with water reaching half way up their car doors.
Rain water was coming over the rain gutters of homes and running up to some doors and into homes where fast-moving traffic was causing wakes that pushed waves of water over front lawns and into garages.
Ripon Police, fire personnel and public works staffers were all out in the field attempting to clear any back up storm grates and to help motorists whose vehicles had become disabled in the rain waters. Police Sergeant Danny Sauer said his officers were locating the problem areas and contacting fire personnel and public works staffers for assistance. More than 20 city staffers were struggling to address flooding issues.
Two vehicles were stranded at Acacia and Milgeo avenues and another two on Canal Street just east of Jack Tone Road. Traffic southbound on Jack Tone was unable to see the roadway that had turned into something of a lake as they approached the two cars, one on a lawn and the other half way into the street with its lights turned off. It was on Doak Boulevard, the east to west arterial at the south boundary of the city, where at least three storm manholes popped out of the roadway creating a dangerous situation for traffic moving through the water.
Chief Bitters was the first one on the scene of the Canal Street. He found a woman driver who appeared to be panicked and unable to start her car. After he was able to calm her down she asked that he jump start her car with him replying he couldn’t do that on a BMW as it might fry the computer system.
Bitters went on another call but returned to check on her finding her husband there asking once again for a jump. He said he explained that he couldn’t because of the sensitive computer and besides it not being a good idea standing in three feet of water. The man attempted to jump the vehicle himself, he recalled, leading to a smell of an electrical short coming from the car that was later located by a tow truck.
“I couldn’t believe how fast the storm came in and how heavy it was in short order,” Bitters said. “People were yelling about the lack of reaction from the city but we were all out on calls.”
The chief said he spotted a dad and his son on paddle boards on Boesh Drive during the heart of the storm.
Another low-lying area that was hard hit by the downpour was Avenue A near Ripona School where flood waters pretty much closed off the area. Wilma Avenue at Fourth Street was also a problem where city workers placed barricades out in the middle of the streets to warn drivers of the problem ahead. The 600 block of Wilma saw waters covering the lawns and moving up to front doors and garages before it began to recede two hours later.
Police Chief Ed Ormonde explained that his dispatchers were answering 911 calls from the public as fast as they could put them on the air but emergencies calls were still backing up. Ormonde himself was in the field locating those who needed emergency help.
City hall was receiving reports from irate citizens on Thursday saying they were going to sue the city for not addressing the flooding properly to prevent the incident from happening.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.