Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Lake Hemet mapped for possible overflows, evacuation plans


Last updated 3/14/2019 at 6:23pm

Riverside County sheriffs at the Lake Hemet substation, working with Beaumont Police Departments drone unit officers this week, mapped the perimeter of Lake Hemet campground and Hurkey Creek that overflowed in recent heavy rains threatening the evacuation of a number of permanent campers at the campground.

The mapping created by Beaumont Police Departments DJI Matrice 200 series drone, according to sheriff's deputies, will help determine where another flooding incident might occur in more heavy rains and possible evacuation routes for campers and motorists using Highway 74.

Recent heavy rains and snow falling on the Cranston burn area in Idyllwild and Mountain Center have washed out portions of Highway 74 with the water runoff carrying debris and boulders down Hurkey Creek. Hurkey Creek feeds into Lake Hemet that is now at capacity according to Lake Hemet Municipal Water District officials. The drone mapping will help officials know how high the lake is rising or receding and where over time.

The last series of winter storms flooded the Lake Hemet inlets south of the Hurkey Creek bridge on Highway 74 bringing the runoff water and debris within feet of the permanent campers at the Racoon and Bear Camps. The sheriffs and campground officials during last week's storms warned the campground's permanent residents they might have to move their fifth wheelers and trailers from their spaces if the water rose any higher.

According to officials, the water had receded Friday, March 8, and was 20 feet away from the camp areas. The picnic tables in the day use area have been moved further up from rising shoreline with only a few day and overnight campers staying. More rain threatened that weekend. Water from the snow melt is coming down Hurkey Creek and running into Lake Hemet.

While the Lake Hemet Lake campgrounds and the three U.S. Forest Service picnic campgrounds at the lake remain open, there is limited access to the lake on highways 74 and 243. Highway 74 from Valle Vista to Mountain Center is closed, possible for months, according to Caltrans' reports, and a portion of Highway 243 from Beaumont has been closed except for Idyllwild and Pine Cove residents.

Access to the Lake, Mountain Center and Idyllwild is available from Highway 371 from Temecula via Highway 79 or from Wilson Valley Road from Hemet or from the desert on the open portion of Highway 74 from La Quinta and the Salton Sea. Both highways are subject to closing by Caltrans for repairs or additional road washouts from pending storms. The California Highway Patrol said motorists should have chains for snows in the higher elevations.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]


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