STORY: As Californians grapple with rising floodwaters, local residents, like John Gould, are finding novel ways to cope.He's rigged a rope system to pull himself through the muddy waters to reach his property in the San Joaquin Valley, an area especially prone to flooding. "The requirement to live here is to have a boat. I mean, that's who we are. We are river rats. It's the only subdivision in California that's inside the levee."On Saturday (March 18), this entire area along the San Joaquin River was issued an evacuation order after record rainfall and snow melt raised the river to hazardous levels. Gould says he owns another house and will be headed there until it is safe to return."...that's the real threat out here, if that levee breaks, it will fill the town."California's winter was marked by a punishing succession of so-called atmospheric river storms, the product of vast, dense airborne currents of water vapor funnelled in from the tropical Pacific.The storms have dumped huge amounts of rain and snow across the state since late December, causing floods, mudslides and power outages. Over 20 deaths statewide have been attributed to the onslaught. Kris Canete is another resident preparing to evacuate."Yeah, about a month ago we had an increase in water level. It came up to about 25 feet, got pretty close to the back of the house, and then it started to recede. And then, with the last round of storms, we got this up to 29 feet now.""Not a whole lot we can do about it. We're just along for the ride." U.S. government forecasters say the harsh winter is likely to lead to increased flood risks across the state this spring. The stretch of wet weather illustrates a dramatic swing for a state that for much of the past three years has been preoccupied with drought, heat and wildfires. But it hasn't all been bad.While the extreme weather has caused massive damage, the storms have also replenished California's sorely depleted network of reservoirs and its Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack, a critical source of water for the state.