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Kern County officials give updates on flood response

On Monday, March 13, Kern County first responder agencies held a press conference to give updates about the flooding and the county's response so far.
Posted: 5:54 PM, Mar 13, 2023
Updated: 2023-03-14 12:21:40-04
California Flooding, March 2023 (FILE)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Monday, March 13, Kern County officials held a press conference at the Kern County Emergency Operations Center in Bakersfield. The press conference follows last week's storm and provided an update on county operations and orders.

Kern County Fire Chief Aaron Duncan says county first responders are still assessing the damage, and rescue efforts are ongoing.

"Stay vigilant. These storms aren't over," said Duncan. "We do have another atmospheric coming in tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Please, I am asking everyone to stay vigilant and stay prepared."

According to Duncan, firefighters have been aiding local agencies with road clearing, repair, and have assessed properties for damage in the areas of Tille Creek, McFarland, Pond, and Kernville, among other areas.

As of Monday afternoon, KCFD says an evacuation center for impacted residents in McFarland has been established at the 11th Avenue Community Center in Delano.

KCFD Deputy Chief of Operations Billy Steers says every Kern community can expect more water in the coming days.

"There is still flowing water, predominantly into the farmlands right now, but still a threat to all of those communities going forward, especially with the next set of rains coming in the next two days," said Steers.

In Wofford Heights, KCFD says an evacuation warning was issued on Monday for the Cane Peak Court area due to observed soil instability that could lead to landslides. An evacuation center for that area remains open at Kern Valley High School in Lake Isabella.

Kern County Department of Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan warned the community about the dangers of flood water in residential areas.

"Anytime that we experience a flood, we have to assume that water is contaminated by some sort of source. There is a lot of bacteria, there is hazardous waste and materials that the flood waters will run through," said Carrigan. "That essentially contaminates the flood waters and anything else that they touch becomes contaminated because of what is in that water."

Public Health advises anyone who comes into contact with flood water to wash with soap and water as soon as possible. Symptoms to watch out for if you've been in contact with flood water are diarrhea, rash, or skin infections. If you see any of these symptoms, contact a doctor right away.


But the flooding isn't the only risk officials say to be on the lookout for.

Larry McCurtain with the Kern County Sheriff's Office warned the public that there are already charity scammers looking to take advantage of the situation.

"It's not uncommon that when there is a disaster or a massive negative event that there are individuals and groups out there that try to profit off of others in times like this. We've been made aware that there's been a handful of phone calls where people are soliciting money for the victims of the flooding and then for money to support first responders," McCurtain said.

McCurtain confirmed directly that nobody with the fire department, the sheriff's office, or any other Kern County agency is calling people and asking for donations, either for victims or first responders. KCSO advises people to hang up on anyone they believe might be trying to scam them, and asks anyone who thinks they may have already been scammed to report that to law enforcement.

KCFD informed the press conference that they intend to present a proclamation of emergency to the Kern County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday. 23ABC will continue to bring you updates on the emergency response throughout this week.

Stay connected to 23ABC on the air and online for the latest updates on evacuation warnings, shelter sites, and weather conditions.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are other health and safety risks to keep in mind if you're in an area impacted by flooding.

Downed power lines, especially in the water, can lead to electrocution. Never touch or try to move a downed power line, even if you think it isn't live. Water and electricity are a lethal combination any way you come across it. If you see downed power lines near you, call PG&E at 800-743-5000 to report it.

Another thing to be aware of is that floodwater can and does carry dangerous debris along with it. Objects such as glass shards and metal fragments, especially when carried by fast-moving floodwaters, can cause serious injuries that lead to infections.

Flooding displaces everything in the water's path, and that means wild animals, including snakes and rodents, might be in the water or holding high ground. Remember that these animals are stressed out and may be aggressive to anyone who gets too close. It's best to leave wild animals alone.

The best advice is to stay out of floodwaters, but if you have to go through the water, protect your skin as much as you can. Wear rubber boots, waders if you have them, rubber gloves, and eye protection, even if it's just a pair of swim goggles, to avoid splashes. Once you're out of the floodwater, wash any exposed skin with soap and clean water.