January 10, 1995 in Nation/World

Thousands Evacuated In Worst California Flood In Nine Years Storm Moves Out Of Bay Area, But More Wet Weather Expected

Associated Press
 

Giant redwood trees toppled and people fled resort communities Monday in the hills north of San Francisco as seven days of rain caused the region’s worst flooding in nearly a decade.

Thousands of people were evacuated and power was knocked out to tens of thousands of homes as the water washed over sections of California’s wine country.

A garbage collector was killed Monday in Monterey County when a tree toppled onto his truck, crushing the cab.

Rainfall slowed over much of the northern half of the state as the storm moved toward Southern California, where flooding last week caused millions in damage. However, more storms were on the way off the Pacific, and forecasters said they saw no real break in the rain all week.

It was the worst flooding in the hilly, wooded region since the Valentine’s Day flood of 1986, which followed nine days of rain. Some 50,000 people were driven from their homes by that deluge.

Two helicopters were used to evacuate dozens of people living in the flooded areas along the Russian River, said Jim Cook, a search and rescue volunteer with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

Streams also flooded around the Napa Valley, but the region’s vineyards are mostly on slopes away from streams, and grapevines are dormant at this time of year. “They’ve gone through this before,” said Kate Jones, spokeswoman for the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

The Russian, Napa, Petaluma, Eel, Smith, Van Duzen and Sacramento rivers were all near or past flood stage Monday.

The Russian River reached 45 feet at Guerneville, 11 feet over flood stage. The record at the summer vacation community was 48.8 feet in 1986.

All roads into Guerneville, about 60 miles north of San Francisco, were cut off with only emergency vehicles allowed in and out.

The storm blacked out some 285,000 Northern California customers for varying periods, said Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman Cory Warren. About 20,000 customers remained without power Monday morning.

Strong wind toppled trees all over the area, and 50 mph gusts closed two of San Francisco International Airport’s four runways.

Along the coast, swells were running up to 20 feet high.

The Red Cross had 14 shelters open across the region; officials said more than 2,650 families in six counties were forced from their homes or were in immediate danger of being forced out.

The storm also pounded Western Oregon, toppling a tree that killed a state highway worker, flooding streets and homes and knocking out power.

The southwestern corner of the state was hardest hit, with more than 5 inches of rain reported in remote mountainous parts of Coos, Curry and Josephine counties.

Flood warnings were issued through Tuesday for the South Umpqua River near Roseburg, the Coquille River in Coos County and the Tualatin River in rural Washington County.

Thad A. Bedingfield, 47, of Medford, was killed shortly before noon when a tree fell on the pickup truck he was driving toward the Mount Ashland ski resort, state police said.

Streets flooded in Grants Pass, Coos Bay and Brookings, where the 2.67 inches of rain from midnight to 6:30 a.m. set a record for the date.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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