Authorities send warning after rescuing five people from San Joaquin River


After Tuesday’s river rescue and the recent heavy rains, the California Highway Patrol and sheriff’s office are warning people to be cautious when driving or walking near bodies of water.

The canal on McKinley, near Clovis may be partially full, but right now rivers, creeks and even back country roads are flooding with water because of the excess rainfall and snow melt this season. 

Deputies say the water is dangerous because you never know what’s lurking underneath.

It’s a story we report on most summers, people drowning or getting swept away by rushing water.

But it can happen to you in your car. In fact, it almost did to a group of men on their way to work Tuesday morning. 

While trying to cross the San Joaquin River, something they’ve done before, but this time, they got stuck.

“It’s a little deceptive how fast that current moves and how strong it is,” says Officer Sean Duncan with the California Highway Patrol. 

It’s a dangerous gamble. Officials say just six inches of water can knock you down, two feet can sweep you car away.

“This year we’ve had unprecedented rainfall and as it gets warmer, the snow is going to start melting and we’re going to see a lot more water runoff and you have to be really cautious when you’re crossing roads,” says Sgt. Matthew Hamilton with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

Hamilton says the risk is greatest on unmaintained roads. He says every year they get a handful of calls.

“You never know how powerful that water can be, just a little bit of water going across the road can wash the car down the road,” says Hamilton.

But Hamilton says it’s not just flooded roads that are dangerous, trees can be as well.

Recently, deputies pulled out chainsaws cutting down trees that were blocking roads to save people who were stuck.

“Trees have not been clear and so when there’s a lot of snow pack and a lot of weight on the trees we tend to have trees fall across those roads,” he says.

Again, officials say it’s better not to go down any unmaintained roads.

But they say if you do go down a back country road to be prepared with extra water, food, clothes. They also say it’s a good idea to make sure you have cell phone service.

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