Tracing Tracy Territory: No floods in Tracy, but a few nearby
by Sam Matthews
Nov 02, 2012 | 3602 views | 4 4 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Flood waters from Tom Paine Slough spread south toward Arbor Road east of MacArthur Drive in December 1950. There was major flooding east of Tracy at the same time. Photo courtesy Henry Schmidt
Flood waters from Tom Paine Slough spread south toward Arbor Road east of MacArthur Drive in December 1950. There was major flooding east of Tracy at the same time. Photo courtesy Henry Schmidt
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After watching television coverage of flooded neighborhoods on the Jersey shore, in New York City and in Hoboken, N.J., one Tracyite asked me the other day, “Did it ever flood in Tracy?”

The answer, to the best of my knowledge, is no, at least not in the city itself. But there is a caveat: Flood waters have nibbled around the edges of the northeast side of town on several occasions over the years.

Tracy’s elevation, most often stated at 61 feet above sea level, is the basic topological fact behind why no flood waters have reached Tracy. That elevation, of course, is the reason Central Pacific engineers in the 1870s decided to place the junction of two rail lines at what became Tracy, and not Banta.

Henry Banta, who operated a saloon and hotel in Banta, had purchased a lot of property around the village in hopes of cashing in when he thought the junction would be there. It wasn’t, for two reasons: Banta’s location is too close to Paradise Cut and Tom Paine Slough, and its lower elevation (27 feet) made it more susceptible to flooding. Henry lost his shirt.

If urban Tracy were ever to flood in a major way, the water could come from a break in levees north of town along the Old River or Sugar Cut. So far, those levees have held, as they have for a century, according to several old-timers. East of there, however, flood waters from Tom Paine Slough spread south toward Arbor Road east of MacArthur Drive in December 1950.

The most recent threat of flood waters reaching the northeast edge of town came in January 1997, when the levee on Paradise Cut was breached and Tom Paine Slough again flooded, sending water as far south as Arbor Road.

As the city expands north taking in Holly Sugar property, the possibility of flood waters, at least seepage under the levees, reaching the urban area increases.

Although no flooding can be recalled directly north of town, the area from Old River south to about Larch Road, reaching the north edge of the West Valley Mall property, is in a 100-year flood plain. That’s the reason highway engineers elevated Interstate 205 as it circles around the north side of Tracy.

In town, of course, several areas have been flooded by surface runoff water during heavy storms. One was at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street, but that location has been improved.

Other low spots where runoff waters have collected include Bessie Avenue between Highland and Eaton avenues and Grant Line Road at Parker Avenue.

South of town, Corral Hollow Creek has topped its banks on a number of occasions after several days of rain have saturated the ground in Corral Hallow Canyon.

The most recent major flooding from the creek was in 1983, when creek waters, instead of spreading out and dissipating in fields east of Chrisman Road as often occurs, continued relentlessly to flow eastward toward the San Joaquin River, flooding Deuel Vocational Institution and causing major problems. Since then, levees have constructed around the prison.

Proposals to build a dam in Corral Hollow Canyon to mitigate periodic flooding of the creek have not resulted in any dam being constructed. That could be reconsidered some day, though, if the creek rises again in a major way.

In the meantime, the skies are clearing after Thursday’s rain and the chances of any flooding here in the immediate future are nil. But as the folks in the Northeast of the U.S. have found out in the past week, you never know what lies ahead.

n Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at shm@tracypress.com.

Comments
(4)
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tony4060
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November 04, 2012
Thank you for posting stories on Tracy floods; you have made me some how little more relax that I can sleep better. I have just moved from New Jersey to Tracy. (Did not unpacked yet)

Thanks Tony

awesomepossum
|
November 02, 2012
?
catwalkweb
|
November 02, 2012
No mention of the flood of 1997? I remember volunteering by preparing and placing sand bags at many flood zones.
code20
|
November 02, 2012
catwalkweb:

Try reading again:

"The most recent threat of flood waters reaching the northeast edge of town came in January 1997, when the levee on Paradise Cut was breached and Tom Paine Slough again flooded, sending water as far south as Arbor Road."


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