Warm, wet weather brings full river and creeks to Kern River Valley

Even local residents filled Riverside Park in Kernville on Wednesday, getting a look at just how high the river is. After years of drought, warm and wet weather is filling the Kern River and many creeks in the area. Experts say the Kern River peaked at just under 25,000 cubic feet a second in Kernville on Tuesday night.

"It's amazing," Gary Ananian said on Wednesday afternoon. "We haven't seen the river like this in four or five years since the drought's been going on."

At about noon, the park had lots of people looking at the swollen Kern River, some taking photos. The river was running fast and wide.

Some neighbors had been out to the park Tuesday night as the water reached even higher up into the park.

"The water was up to here, most of those benches were under water," Ananian described in the park.

Debris could be seen pushed against several benches and a picnic table, and a row of debris could be seen above the sidewalk, showing how high the river had reached.

"The river flow was about double of what it is right now," Keith Pengilley said. "In fact, where we're standing right now was probably under two feet of water." He said it was also scary, because the water was moving so fast at that time. He estimated that was about 9 or 10 p.m. Tuesday.

After five years of drought, the Kern River was in better shape last year. But, this winter has been a real turn around. And Tuesday's weather pushed the water levels even higher.

Pengilley said they got rain in Kernville on Tuesday, but even more in the higher areas that feed the upper Kern River.

"I watched your newscast this morning," he told a reporter. "Aaron Perlman said there was about six inches up by Peppermint Creek, and about 3 inches up by Johnsondale." Those are areas that feed into the upper Kern River.

The storm was also warmer, meaning more snow from the past few weeks could melt and also contribute to the runoff.

The Kern River's north fork heads into Kernville. Over on the south fork, water gushed over Sierra Way, and that county road was marked "closed" on Wednesday afternoon. It's a low-lying area that gets flooded more often.

Eyewitness News viewer Carol Davenport also sent in photos of water soaking Scodie Park in the Onyx area. Water pours around picnic tables in the pictures from Wednesday morning.

Kern County Fire Capt. Jason Knaggs told Eyewitness News stations in the KRV reported no property damage, but that natural creeks in the area were "really swollen." They also have reports of water problems on Kelso Valley area.

Most of the snowmelt, rain water and runoff will end up in Isabella Lake. Mike Michalka said that has a lot of benefits.

"I think it's fantastic, it's going to help the farmers down in the Valley," he said. And while that water will get used for irrigation in the valley, Michalka said more water in the lake and river will also certainly draw more tourists to the Kern River Valley.

"I think it's going to be great for the community up here," he said. "The lake is going to have a lot more campers. I believe that we're going to get a heck of a lot more up here, once word gets out this lake is full."

And, he said the full river will draw in visitors. too.

From the Kern River Conservancy, Ananian agrees. He wants to stress safety, with the higher river. But, he sees real benefits from finally having more water in the lake and river.

"It's great to see the rain, the "pineapple express," the water that we've had the last couple months," Ananian said. "This has been a gift to Kernville and Lake Isabella."

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