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Residents impacted by flooding voice frustrations as officials prepare for more wet weather

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 23:13:40-05

People in Oceano impacted by flooding and evacuation warnings are preparing for the next round of wet weather.

It was a packed room at the Oceano Community Services District as residents came to hear from authorities and voice their frustration with the storm response.

The meeting on storm preparedness turned tense at times Thursday night as people impacted by flooding described what they went through during Monday’s storm.

“There was 20 feet of water on our property. My parent’s house was on a 12-foot-elevated pad and there were three to four feet of water inside the house, “said Katie Ward who lives on the south end of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee.

Ward began evacuating her animals before the levee breach inundated her property with flood water and debris.

“We didn’t even get all of the animals out. My daughter probably has 20 rabbits that all perished, they all drowned because we couldn’t get to them. The water was raging through that barn.”

Monday’s breach of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee that flooded barns came with little warning.

“The water had already been going over the top of the levee probably three o’clock on and was just raging through the property,” explained Ward. “We didn’t get any sort of emergency call on our phone until well after 5:30 when we were taking our very last load of animals out.”

The San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services says the breach was not expected and if issues arise during the next set of storms, they’re hoping to give residents at least three to four hours of advance notice.

Oceano Resident Linda Austin is closely monitoring the situation. While her home is under an evacuation warning, her nearby ranch was evacuated earlier this week.

“It wasn’t expected. I went and saw the creek and it was just about halfway up the bank and an hour or two later, it was all the way up to the top. So, it was pretty startling,” she said.

Others dealt with minor flooding but are concerned that the flood threat hasn’t passed.

“We are under the warning. We did get evacuated a few days ago under the order so I’m quite concerned about this again,” said Oceano Resident Robert Read.

San Luis Obispo County Public Works says that crews are working to repair the levee breach.

Repairs are also underway on eroded areas on the north side of the levee which protect low-lying areas of Oceano.

“At this point in time, there is a lot of work taking place by the county, by the public works department to ensure that the levee is being reinforced,” said SLO County District 4 Supervisor Jimmy Paulding, who hosted the meeting alongside Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg.

“We have been doing repairs to the levee system where there has been some damage and making sure that it’s gonna be prepared for the next rain events,” added SLO County Public Works Director John Diodati.

The evacuation order in place south of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee will remain in place through the next series of storms.

San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services is encouraging all residents to register for the Reverse 911 system which is used to provide information and alerts during emergencies.