Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, was a wet day on the Hill, with 19 swift-water rescues taking place in various locations, straining the abilities of emergency responders.
Official rain total at Keenwild Station for Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 13 and 14, was 7 inches. From Oct. 1 through late February, Keenwild recorded 24.8 inches of rain, whereas a full year of average rain is 24.5 inches.
With local soils already saturated and roads having sustained major damage, the likelihood of flooding after major rainfall was great.
On Valentine’s Day morning, flooding became a challenge for certain monthly RV campers at Lake Hemet Campground.
Especially affected were those at premium sites abutting the campground meadow (Camp 1 Premium meadow view sites). Conditions changed quickly as water from a creek flowing under a bridge just east of the campground entrance breeched a berm and began flooding the meadow.
Patricia Blaine, camp resident since October 2017, recounted she went out around 8 a.m. to walk her dog. “The upper part of my yard was still dry,” she noted. “Within an hour the water had gotten too deep to easily get out the door.” With the water still rising, Blaine said to her boyfriend, “Maybe we’d better do something.” Power was lost around 9:30 a.m., according to Blaine.
She related that water was now above the seats on a meadow-abutting picnic bench and still rising. “We received no notification from Lake Hemet management that the situation was serious and that we should evacuate,” she said. (Camp management did not respond to a call for clarification.)
By this point, other adjacent residents were beginning to disconnect their RVs from camp hookups, including power, gas, water and sewage. According to Blaine, people were leaving rapidly, and some campers had not properly closed sewer connections, causing sewage to begin flowing around RV sites.
By 11 p.m., Blaine was on the road out of the campground. “There was so much water that our propane tanks were bobbing in the water flow,” she said. “We did a rapid disconnect and they floated away.”
With water everywhere, it was difficult to see the road.
By noon, Blaine and boyfriend were on their way to Anza to a friend’s ranch. “Between Lake Hemet and Anza, the road was flooded in 15 or more spots.” Blaine drove her Lexus SUV while her boyfriend drove the coach. She stressed how taxing the drive was, with her car beginning to float several times before reaching her friend’s ranch. But once the weather clears a bit, she’ll return to Lake Hemet.
“I’m still paying rent for being there and plan to return,” she said. “I love the beauty and the peace and quiet.”