Ahead of a coming rainstorm, signs have gone up along the Salinas River in Paso Robles, warning of the potential for rapid rising and flooding.
It’s an area where some people camp out and live. It’s also an area where ten people were rescued by helicopter during a storm in March of last year.
Now, nearly a year later, folks are being warned it could happen all over again if they do not listen to the warning.
The Paso Robles Department of Emergency Services has posted 16 signs along different entrances to the riverbed letting people know that the river is extremely dangerous during a storm.
“I was kind of scared and then I was thinking, well, I’m not going to leave my stuff, and then when the guy came down on the helicopter, I just okay, I’m going to be stuck here for a couple of days so I just went up in the helicopter and went with him,” said Darren Yanez who lives in the riverbed and had to be rescued during last year’s storm.
March 22, 2018, is a day Yanez remembers well.
“The storms came in that morning and it wasn’t long at all before we were actually affecting rescues and some of those were very high-risk rescues using helicopter hoist operations as well as rescue swimmers,” explained Battalion Chief Scott Hallett of the Paso Robles Department of Emergency Services.
Yanez and nine others were rescued from the rising Salinas River.
“I’m a little nervous now that I know that it’s coming,” Yanez explained. “I’m going to have to go back and like just tighten down the hatches and make sure everything is secure and tight like I don’t have no leaks coming in for sure.”
At one encampment on Friday, the person who lives there said he recently constructed a wooden bridge just in case he needs to escape.
Daniel Monahan, a Navy veteran, helped build it because during the last storm… “My tent floated away,” he said. “Some of the stuff you never get back. You know, like cards from your parents that are gone, stuff like that.”
This time around he’s doing things a little differently after learning of the storm potential and seeing yellow signs scattered along the riverbed.
“I’ll probably get ready to boogie out of there,” he said.
He plans to move his stuff to higher ground.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Meantime, Paso Cares and the fire department are getting the word out so we don’t see a repeat of last winter.
“We are encouraging people to come to the warming shelter,” said Gail McNichols, President of Paso Cares Homeless Services.
“If we can just get everybody out of harms way proactively and everybody’s safe, then that’s our main goal,” Battalion Chief Hallett concluded.