By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Writer
A powerful storm sent rivers and creeks over their banks and into
cities and set off mudslides that blocked major highways across
Northern California on Saturday. At least a dozen people had to be
rescued from the rushing water, and forecasters were warning of
another storm on Sunday.
California officials urged residents along the Napa and Russian rivers
and on hillsides to collect their valuables, gather emergency supplies
and get out.
In the city of Napa, near the heart of wine country, the river rose 5
feet over flood stage as water surged into downtown before beginning
to recede. Napa officials estimated about 1,000 homes flooded.
"We had so much water in such a short amount of time that man hole
covers were popping all over the city," said Napa City Councilman
The Russian River was menacing the Sonoma County town of Guerneville,
where forecasters warned that the river was still rising and could
reach 14 feet above flood stage, and officials were urging residents
Farther inland, Reno, Nev., was seeing its worst flooding since New
Year's Day 1997, when high water caused $1 billion in damage. The
Truckee River swamped downtown buildings on Saturday, and parts of
nearby Sparks were under 4 feet of water. Many businesses along the
river closed and owners spent the day piling sandbags.
Rescue crews also had their hands full, plucking stranded drivers from
cars and flooded homes across the region.
In Sonoma County alone, helicopters were used in six rescues, and
firefighters rescued two more people from a mobile home park, where 4
feet of rushing water washed at least one home off its foundation.
"We are just very strongly recommending that people living in the
lower areas lock up everything and go to higher ground," said Linda
Eubanks of Sonoma County's Office of Emergency Services. "Just because
it stopped raining doesn't mean the water is going down. In fact, we
are being warned there may be a bit more rain tonight and Sunday."
Rick Diaz took off on his own through a flooded Petaluma neighborhood
in a 14-foot Zodiac boat, ferrying residents to dry ground and
rescuing their pets.
"He's a hero," said a tearful Suzi Keber after the wetsuit-clad Diaz
rescued two pet lizards from her home.
In downtown San Anselmo, the creek overflowed into as many as 70
businesses, said town administrator Debbie Stutsman. Two people
rescued from the rising water there were hospitalized with
hypothermia, she said. Many business places were almost ruined.
"I'm looking out of my office now at merchants bringing their damaged
goods out into the street," Stutsman said. "The entire downtown area
was under 4 1/2 feet of water. Some go back and forth to the stores
bringing stuff out to dry; others stand guard over what is already
"It's pretty bad all across town," she said.
Mudslides closed several major roads, including Interstate 80 in the
Sierra Nevada about 25 miles west of Reno. Six tractor-trailer rigs
were caught up in one slide on the interstate early Saturday, but no
injuries were reported. Troopers and others were turning motorists
away, warning them of danger ahead if they continued.
I-80, the major corridor linking Northern California and points east,
was expected to remain closed for at least a few days, said California
Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Dinger.
"No work can be done until the slide stabilizes and we don't know when
that will occur," Dinger said. "We won't endanger our own employees,"
Together, the two weekend storms could add as much as 6 inches of rain
to the already water-logged region, said Rick Canepa, a weather
service meteorologist in Monterey. More than 2 feet of snow was also
forecast in the Sierra Nevada.
One woman suffered a broken leg when a mudslide destroyed her home in
Santa Rosa late Friday. It took firefighters nearly an hour to free
her from the mud and debris, said Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Andy
Flash flooding and landslides temporarily closed Interstate 5 both
ways near the Oregon line. U.S. Highway 101 was closed by fallen trees
and mud south of Crescent City.
Rain also started moving into Southern California on Saturday, and
flash flood watches were issued for areas scarred by wildfire in Santa
Barbara, Ve ntura and Los Angeles counties.
Even Pasadena's Rose Parade was in danger of rain on Monday. The
parade has had dry days for half a century, but float builders were
still prepared to roll out sheets of clear plastic to protect delicate
"I'd hate to be selfish to ask God just for this favor, but I came far
to help decorate and see the parade for the first time," said Jean
Steadman, 79, of Georgetown, Texas, as she gathered yellow roses for a
Associated Press writers Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev.; Julia Silverman in
Portland, Ore. contributed to this report.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: One of the reporters on Associated
Press news radio http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/Fednews.html noted
that "in the event that someday (if/when?) the earthquake predicted
for slightly off the coast -- where the cracked plate is now -- comes
along and brings a tsunami with it, these people in northern California
tonight will have seen nothing." Even this 'little bit' they have
going on there now is a distressing way to start the New Year however.