Deb Murphy Report – Inyo County Supervisors Updated on Hilary Damage 

Oak Creek Aug 21, 2023

Inyo County Supervisors Updated on Hilary Damage

Inyo County roads took a beating as remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary swept through the Eastern Sierra. The Board of Supervisors held a special meeting for an update on the heroic efforts of the County Road Department, CalTrans and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The one glitch in the efforts was available information on evacuation centers for locals threatened by flooding. While Inyo maintains a list of available centers, the County did not open any of them. The Independence Civic Club and Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe, however, provided a safe place for locals to weather the storm.

Keeler and Darwin were cut off through the storm; U.S. Hwy. 395 was closed due to flooding. Ironically, “San Andreas,” was aired on Saturday, providing some comfort to residents hunkered down in their homes watching Los Angeles skyscrapers collapse. At least the Eastern Sierra wouldn’t suffer that storm outcome.

Two evacuation orders were issued by the Sheriff’s Department, north of Mt. Whitney Portal Road and along Oak Creek. Sheriff Stephanie Rennie reported one home was swept off its foundation, others were damaged. According to Shannon Platt, assistant director of the County’s Road Department, there was more damage to roads than he’d seen in his 30 years combined. His message to residents: “be patient; we’re getting to you.”

Public Works Director Mike Ferrante said 24 of the County’s roads sustained damage, ranging from moderate to severe. While most of the repair work can be done in-house, three or four would need to go contract. The worst of the damage was south of Big Pine, but part of Newman Road in Big Pine was lost.

Death Valley National Park has been administratively closed with wide-spread damage and pavement lost on portions of Hwy. 190 and land lines down. Park administrators indicated the area could be closed for weeks. CalTrans will decide when Hwy. 190 can re-open.

Mel Joseph, Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe environmental director, was particularly upset as Lone Pine Creek rose from 150 cfs to 300 cfs in two hours Sunday evening.  He called Inyo’s Health and Human Services to find out where the evacuation center would be located. There was no answer but a call-back from the department notified him there was no order to open such a center. Joseph emphasized the problem was with “upper management, not at the lower staff level.” His question to the Board “is Inyo being led or just managed?”

The reservation put out its own evacuation order later that evening directing residents to a specific building that Joseph admitted wasn’t in the best spot but luckily did not flood. Joseph was joined by Inyo community fire district members, Damon Carrington and Michael Cappello who questioned the County’s efforts to deal with the emergency. Cappello asked for a pre-plan that could be executed in the future as well as an after-action report.

County Administrative Officer Nate Greenberg, identified as Director of Emergency Services on the County’s emergency declaration resolution, said “it’s clear there were missteps, things happened that shouldn’t have.”


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Stephen McGreevy
Stephen McGreevy
27 days ago

Thanks very much for this very helpful info. for us Inyo residents who left the area (myself for Tonopah, NV to stay with a friend and then camp out into the Tequila Range to avoid the worst effects of Hilary to Keeler where I reside! Thanks! N6NKS