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131 homes affected by flooding at a small Tulare County community. Help is available

Photo from a resident shows aftermath of canal breach that caused flooding on Friday, Mar. 10, 2023 in Cutler.
Alondra Morales
Alondra Morales
A photo from a resident shows the aftermath of a canal breach that caused flooding on Friday, Mar. 10, 2023, in Cutler, Calif.

CUTLER, Calif. – On Wednesday, the main streets along Road 124 and Railroad Drive in the small community of Cutler in Tulare County were mostly cleared. But the area surrounding homes was caked with a thick layer of mud.

Just days before, a canal system near the community was overwhelmed and breached – leading to flooding at 131 homes, some in Cutler and others in Orosi, a town a mile north.

Several families removed damaged belongings from their homes and assessed the flood damage this week. Most said their homes were uninhabitable due to water damage.

Supervisor Eddie Valero, whose district represents this area of the county that runs into the foothills, confirmed most of the affected homes were located directly along the breached canal.

‘Eight breaches’

“We had eight breaches all along the canal system from Cutler-Orosi and East Orosi. So, this magnitude is something we haven’t seen in decades,” Valero said.

The canal system is managed by Alta Irrigation District. Valero said the canal succumbed to the water pressure at the height of the storm on Friday as communities along the eastern San Joaquin Valley saw flooding.

“When you have … narrow passageways, the pressure of the water actually goes and pushes up against the side of the wall,” Valero said. “And that’s what then causes a break or the breach to happen.”

Many of the affected homes are managed by the Tulare County Housing Authority. The authority’s Board of Commissioners on Wednesday declared a local emergency due to the flooding and damage.

Help available

The order means families affected can apply for financial help. They can get reimbursed for cleaning supplies, hotel stays and food.

However, the county could not guarantee reimbursements for personal belongings.

Flood victims are encouraged to file a damage report with the county. They can do so at a community event at Orosi High School on Friday, Mar. 17, from 5:00 pm - 7:30pm.

Volunteers will be present to help residents report damages.

The event will provide food, clothing and cleaning supplies, as well as children’s toys and pet supplies. The nonprofit Convoy of Hope will also be present to provide relief.

Flood Relief Community Event

Friday, Mar. 17, 2023.

5:00 pm - 7:30 pm.

Orosi High School (multi-purpose room)

41815 Rd 128, Orosi, CA 93647

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.