Nancy Teicheira remembers the day that the San Joaquin River swelled to the point that it broke the very barriers designed to contain it.
Just four miles away from the South Manteca dairy she calls home, the river – full and fast-moving thanks to a warm winter storm that melted an unusually large early Sierra snowpack – finally pushed hard enough against the unstable levee to breach it and send all of that water pouring into rural farmland.
While the water didn’t enter her family’s house, it did wreak havoc on the dairy operations – forcing her husband Frank to work non-stop in order to get his cattle to safety.
“I think he ended up moving 700 cows – 690 or something like that,” Teicheira said when remembering the flood 15-years-ago that devastated farming operations in South Manteca and rural Tracy. “He had to work nonstop to get them out of there. A lot of people had to do that.”
But the incident did force her and her family to find temporary shelter with friends until the water that had completely surrounded their home subsided. Others in the area, she said, weren’t quite as lucky.
“We had friends that lost everything – their house was completely underwater,” she said. “We were only out for about two weeks, but some other neighbors of ours were out for more than two months and they had to bring their kids back-and-forth from Livermore to school every day.”
It wasn’t the first time that Frank Teicheira had dealt with a flood on the family dairy. He has since taken precautions by building berms around portions of the property that he hopes will keep the water out of areas that were affected the last time. Being in such close proximity to the river – with nothing between the levees and their property but wide-open farmland – makes a repeat possible if the conditions are right.
“They just repaired the levees the last time they broke – they didn’t do any reinforcement,” he said. “And down at the bridge across the river on Airport they built it going through the river instead of over it – which backs up water. I don’t know if the levees are any stronger today than they were then.”