What’s in the water? Human generosity

The Williams City Council, the Colusa County Board of Supervisors and other city and county officials last week publicly acknowledged the vast amount of human resources that go into life and property protection during heavy rainfall. 

An atmospheric river dumped more than five inches of rain on the valley on Feb. 14, and more rain is expected to fall today, with a flood warning expected to be issued for Thursday morning. 

The tropical storm could be followed by a break in the weather Friday, but additional rainfall is expected over the weekend. 

All around Colusa County, public works crews will continue to monitor roadways and, if necessary, detour traffic after roads flooded from overrun creeks and ditches. 

This week’s storm is not expected to be as catastrophic at the Valentine’s Day storm, which dumped more than usual rainfall in the valley.  

In Williams, dozens of firefighters, volunteers, and two inmate crews consisting of 27 inmates from the California Department of Forestry managed to put up a flood berm on County Road 99 before the north end of town became completely submerged. 

Williams Fire Chief Jeff Gilbert said heavy rain started flooding west of the city around 2:30 AM on Feb. 14 and north of the city around 6 AM. 

“Somewhere around noon that day things were looking bad,” Gilbert said. “The water was coming up extremely fast – a lot faster than we’ve seen in the past. There was not doubt in my mind that we were going to loose the north end of town.” 

In addition to first responders, farmers, and business owners, irrigation experts pitched in with assistance, specifically Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, whose workers and equipment were escorted down a closed Interstate 5 by the California Highway Patrol, to provide pumping, piping, excavation, and equipment repair at no cost to the city. 

Gilbert and other city officials said there were many people deserving credit for saving the town, but especially GCID, who brought in excavation equipment, rock, other materials to help build the berm. 

“Without them we would not have survived the storm as well as we did,” he said.

Williams City Administrator also thanked the fire department and everyone that assisted with the emergency. 

“Without those individuals over this past rainy period we would be severely flooded,” Kennedy said. “The fire department took the lead and notified the houses and residents – that are typically flooded out – twice: once that we were putting the berm up and that we were reinforcing the berm so it didn’t spill over. We estimate that the flood water we had up against the berm was probably six inches to 12 inches higher that what we received two years ago in February 2017. There was a significant chance of flooding if not for their due diligence and great work.”

Like Williams, emergency personnel throughout the county also rescued motorists trapped on flooded roadways or in the mud; many who went around more than a dozen road closure signs. 

“Those signs are there for a reason,” said Deputy Public Works Mike Azevedo. ■