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When there was too much water
Days after the 1997 New Years floods started, some residents at Weatherbee Lake escorted by San Joaquin County Sheriffs deputies get a boat-ride view of the devastation at their homes for the first time. The street sign in the center of the picture illustrate the depth of the flood waters. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

That was one of the health and welfare issues that many flood-ravaged Mantecans had to contend with for days - even weeks and months for others - following the devastating hundred-year floods that greeted the New Year in 1997.

The flood waters that seemed to melt the boil-weakened levees like butter along the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers south and southwest of Manteca appeared as though they were here to stay.

When the Dodd family, who were evacuated days before, drove down South Union Road to assess the damage to their home on Avenue D on the ninth day of the New Year, they had a big surprise waiting at the Veritas Road intersection. The area was inundated with water and the road was impassable. Their home seemed so near yet so far.

Around the same time, swimming vest-wearing residents with homes at the riverside enclave of Weatherbee Lake west of the now-defunct Oakwood Lake Resort on West Woodward Avenue, rode on San Joaquin Sheriff boats and with deputies escorting them, took a boat-side tour of their properties, sailing past street signs with their tips peeking out of the murky waters.

Residents who lived at The Islander Mobile Home Park on Woodward along Waltham Slough fared even worse - if not worst of all. Many of the trailer homes were washed away by the strong currents of the flood waters, clogging the slough along with all kinds of debris carried down by the swift-flowing river waters, not to mention the bodies of Holstein cows that drowned at the Luiz Dairy grazing field at Weatherbee Lake. One of the lucky bovines was Flo the Cow which managed to scramble to the top of a floating trailer from The Islander.

Driving down South Airport Way at the corner of Fig Avenue one day, I came upon two men wading in knee-high waters while guiding a metal boat loaded with cartons of eggs from the egg farm structure in the back of the property. The egg farm was just a shout away from the flooded houses on Fig, one of which was visited by Senator Diane Feinstein, now former senator Mike Machado, and then Congressman Richard Pombo to see firsthand how residents were impacted by the devastating flood waters. Feinstein and Machado braved the muddy waters on the front lawn of the Marty family, but Pombo decided to stay put on dry land.