A new storm moved into Northern California Tuesday, causing fears of more flooding as already swollen lakes and rivers rose to dangerous levels in some areas.
Farther south, a slackening of winds and torrential rain allowed emergency work crews to gain some advantage in reopening roads and bridges in the Central Valley and Monterey County. As the waters recede, the cost of nearly a week of calamitous storms began to emerge in greater detail.
The collapse of twin bridges on Interstate 5 south of Fresno has closed a roughly 180-mile stretch of California’s main north-south artery.
But James van Loben Sels, California’s transportation director, shortened the estimate for reopening the route, saying a temporary two-lane bridge could be carrying traffic by the weekend. Officials had feared that a detour along Highway 99 might be needed for at least a month.
They acknowledged that the bridges had not been repaired under a state program to upgrade structures vulnerable to floods and other natural disasters.
Along Monterey Bay, flood waters mixed with raw sewage from overwhelmed treatment plants have inundated vast areas. The 5,000 residents of Castroville, who were ordered to evacuate over the weekend and have since returned home, were told to disinfect everything.
“Every river in the county should be considered polluted,” said William Wong, the health director in Monterey County, where nearly 2,500 acres of farm land are submerged near the small town of Pajaro.
Residents along the Russian River in Sonoma County were also told to boil their water, and state flood experts said the river is expected to continue rising Tuesday.
Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff, Tuesday toured San Jose and other areas damaged by the floods. “We will commit to the people of California that we will stand with you in this time of need,” said Panetta, a former congressman from Monterey County.
The state Department of Food and Agriculture estimated crop and livestock losses at $303 million so far, including $67 million in lettuce, $65 million each in cauliflower and broccoli and $33 million in almonds.
Gov. Pete Wilson added nine additional counties to his request for federal disaster assistance Tuesday. Forty-eight counties had already been declared disaster areas.