First responders have been using boats and special vehicles to rescue residents stranded in flooded areas of Merced.

By Vanessa Vasconcelos

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) — Heavy downpours, strong wind, and severe flooding have left residents in the Merced on edge.

“They were bringing the dump trucks in emergency sirens. In my neighborhood, at 5am, the Merced sheriff’s were getting people to leave their homes,” Erin Hamm recalled.

Near the Woodbridge Place Apartments off of Highway 59, a group of evacuees tried to get access to their homes on Wednesday. Some residents weren’t able to leave in the first place.

Merced fire crews rescued Sheila LaCava from her apartment.

“I said, ‘I don’t feel well. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.’ I didn’t realize until the next morning my car was under water, a lot of people were gone,” explained LaCava.

She and other patients with medical needs are top priority in this operation.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was until the guys picked me up,” said LaCava.

When water crested Bear Creek, the Merced Fire Department deployed its Aircraft Rescue Firefighting rig.

“It happened faster than anticipated. And once the water goes over, you’re better being proactive than reactive,” said Merced Fire Captain Morgan Madruga.

The high profile vehicle is typically stationed at the airport. For aircraft rescues, it’s only been used one other time for flooding.

“It’s been a busy 48 hours getting people out of their houses,” Madruga said.

Merced Fire stays prepared for the worst, but certain areas, including Willowbrook, haven’t seen floodwater like this in decades, if ever. Now, fire officials calling on the public to be proactive in preparing for the next wave of wet weather.

“Understand the warnings, get online, look at where the warnings are. That way, you don’t become a victim,” explained Madruga.

The community is coming together as recovery efforts continue after the storm.

Many volunteers are showing up at the evacuation centers. City officials say while this is appreciated, they ask that you register first, as there are families trying to navigate next steps there.