Nation/World

Floods Saturate West 100,000 Forced From Homes As Floodwaters Continue Rampage

Helicopters plucked stranded farmers from rooftops and sunken pickup trucks Friday after five days of relentless rain that sent 100,000 people fleeing their homes across the West.

Helicopters were also sent to evacuate some of the 2,200 people trapped for three days in Yosemite National Park, where flooding offered a spectacular show of roaring waterfalls but blocked the only roads in and out. The choppers waited outside the park while rescuers scouted for dry landing spots.

In Reno, Nev., casinos removed the sandbags and reopened after the city’s worst flooding in 40 years. Flights resumed at the airport Friday afternoon, allowing some of the thousands of stranded tourists to begin returning home. Nevada’s largest legal brothel, the Mustang Ranch, was inundated with half a foot of water but expected to reopen over the weekend.

“The girls are anxious to return to work,” said the manager, who identified herself as Bridgette. “I’ll bet the customers are, too.”

A mudslide blocked the main road to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the California coast, prompting officials to declare an “unusual event” - the lowest level of alert. It was expected to take hours to clear the road.

Governors of five Western states have declared a state of emergency in 84 counties since being deluged with snow and rain in a series of nonstop storms that began on Dec. 26. At least 22 deaths have been blamed on the storms. The governors of California and Idaho appealed for federal disaster help.

The storms blocked major highways and rail lines in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Boulders the size of a house crashed onto a Sierra Nevada highway. California’s scenic coastal Highway 1 was cut in at least four places.

A break in the weather allowed many evacuees from the hard-hit Yuba City and Marysville area to return home, but others waited at shelters, motels and gas stations for the floodwaters to recede. Both Northern California cities were evacuated Thursday night after the flooding Feather River threatened levees. One levee broke, swamping orchards.

“I know that song, ‘it never rains in California - it pours.’ Well, yeah, it pours,” said Ginger Washburn of Olivehurst, who was among 900 evacuees at a high school shelter in Lincoln.

In Woodland, where 240 evacuees stayed at the Yolo County Fairgrounds shelter, people watched the TV news, hoping to catch a glimpse of their homes or those of friends and neighbors.

“Our house burned down in August,” said Tamara Null of Yuba City, who was there with seven children, her grandson, parents, a sister and a niece. “We were just starting to get it rebuilt and now we’re flooded. I’m getting used to this.”

Thousands of acres were under a layer of muddy water, and the roofs of homes and farms were all that could be seen in many areas. More than 40 inches of rain have fallen since Sunday in the Sierra Nevada watershed.

On the north fork of the Mokelumne River in San Joaquin County, floodwaters spilled over a levee and swept a marina and at least 230 boats downstream, ramming them into a bridge. Floodwaters also inundated three mobile homes and the marina store. No one was hurt.

“People had just gotten off the boats when the levee broke,” said Dan Deckert, whose father owns the marina.

Coast Guard helicopter crews ran nonstop rescue operations. In one, three people and three dogs were whisked off the roof of a house near Olivehurst. Other people were lifted to safety from their automobiles.

“There were wires at the tops of the trees when we rescued one man and an older woman from a car,” Petty Officer Dan Sweetser said. They were “up to their necks in water.”

In Reno, the Truckee River began slowly subsiding after swamping scores of homes and businesses.

“We’re pushing back the sandbags and cleaning up the sidewalk,” said Pat Martin, a spokeswoman at Harrah’s Reno casino. “Since we’ve never closed in our 60-year history, we’ve never had a reopening.”

Nevada Gov. Bob Miller said the flooding left hundreds of homes uninhabitable and said the damage could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Idaho’s flooding began easing, but thousands remained isolated by washed-out roads or had no power for a third straight day.

In Washingont, saturated soil was giving way above and below scores of Seattle houses and apartment buildings - many of them pricey view homes in posh neighborhoods overlooking Lake Union or Puget Sound. Dozens of residents were evacuated due to concerns about structural safety - as well as natural gas and electrical lines.

“They have fabulous views,” spokeswoman Rebecca Hale in Mayor Norm Rice’s office noted ruefully.

No one was prepared to venture a guess as to when the waterlogged soil would settle down, Hale said.

Officials were watching a Capitol Hill townhouse that has been slowly sliding toward Interstate 5. The house moved four feet Friday and the Lakeview exit off northbound I-5 was closed as a precaution. The interstate itself remained open.

And two high-use urban bridges in Western Washington - Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge and Bremerton’s Warren Avenue Bridge - were closed Thursday, key supports undermined by water and shifting, soggy soil.

Both were expected to be shut down for weeks. The Seattle span is used by an average 17,000 vehicles daily, while the Bremerton bridge is used by thousands daily - and an estimated 2,000 vehicles during peak commute hours.

The Washington death toll from weather-related accidents in the storms that began Dec. 26 has risen to 15 with the death Thursday night of a south Kitsap County woman injured when a snow-laden deck roof fell on her last Sunday.

MEMO: Changed from Idaho edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: FLOODING IN THE WEST A state-by-state look at flooding across the West:

Washington Twenty-four of 39 counties in state of emergency. More than 60 homes in Seattle evacuated because of landslides. Thousands of homes without power. More than 20 major roads closed. Flood warnings on nine rivers. At least 15 deaths blamed on storms that began Dec. 26.

Idaho Hundreds forced to evacuate because of flooding. U.S. Highway 95, Idaho’s only north-south highway, blocked by mudslides and floods; drivers forced to detour through Oregon and Washington. State of emergency declared in 13 counties covering most of western and North Idaho. Damage put at $10 million.

California As many as 95,000 people evacuated from Yuba and Sutter counties on the flooded Feather River, up to 12,000 evacuated from Sacramento County on the Consumnes River. Authorities planned to evacuate by helicopter 2,200 tourists and employees stranded at Yosemite National Park. Thirty-seven counties in Northern California declared disaster areas. Several roads closed because of flooding and mudslides, including U.S. 50 and U.S. 101. Four deaths.

Nevada Hundreds of Reno-area homes left uninhabitable by worst flooding in more than 40 years; 75 homes damaged in the Carson Valley south of Reno. Reno-Tahoe Airport, most casinos reopen. One man presumed dead after being swept away in flooded Carson River. State of emergency declared in four counties and the state capital, Carson City.

Oregon Flooding eases, but scores of homes inundated. Dozens of roads flooded or hit by mud- or rockslides, including Oregon 35 on Mount Hood, where a boulder fell onto highway. Some 21,000 residents of Ashland and Talent had to get water from National Guard tankers after flooding cut off treatment plants. State of emergency declared in six counties. Three deaths.

Changed from Idaho edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: FLOODING IN THE WEST A state-by-state look at flooding across the West:

Washington Twenty-four of 39 counties in state of emergency. More than 60 homes in Seattle evacuated because of landslides. Thousands of homes without power. More than 20 major roads closed. Flood warnings on nine rivers. At least 15 deaths blamed on storms that began Dec. 26.

Idaho Hundreds forced to evacuate because of flooding. U.S. Highway 95, Idaho’s only north-south highway, blocked by mudslides and floods; drivers forced to detour through Oregon and Washington. State of emergency declared in 13 counties covering most of western and North Idaho. Damage put at $10 million.

California As many as 95,000 people evacuated from Yuba and Sutter counties on the flooded Feather River, up to 12,000 evacuated from Sacramento County on the Consumnes River. Authorities planned to evacuate by helicopter 2,200 tourists and employees stranded at Yosemite National Park. Thirty-seven counties in Northern California declared disaster areas. Several roads closed because of flooding and mudslides, including U.S. 50 and U.S. 101. Four deaths.

Nevada Hundreds of Reno-area homes left uninhabitable by worst flooding in more than 40 years; 75 homes damaged in the Carson Valley south of Reno. Reno-Tahoe Airport, most casinos reopen. One man presumed dead after being swept away in flooded Carson River. State of emergency declared in four counties and the state capital, Carson City.

Oregon Flooding eases, but scores of homes inundated. Dozens of roads flooded or hit by mud- or rockslides, including Oregon 35 on Mount Hood, where a boulder fell onto highway. Some 21,000 residents of Ashland and Talent had to get water from National Guard tankers after flooding cut off treatment plants. State of emergency declared in six counties. Three deaths.



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