The rain stayed away from flood-ravaged northern California for a second day Saturday, giving hope to tens of thousands of evacuees waiting to get back to their homes.
Officials kept a wary eye on levees as rivers swelled out of their banks with water draining away after nearly a week of storms.
President Clinton issued a disaster declaration Saturday for 37 counties in California and 13 in Idaho, making federal relief funds available. He had declared northern Nevada a major disaster area on Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones or their homes and businesses in these terrible floods,” Clinton said in a statement from his vacation retreat in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Between 100,000 and 125,000 people were being kept away from their homes, and 34,000 of them were in shelters. Most of the evacuees were from Sutter and Yuba counties north of Sacramento, where levees broke under the pressure of high water.
Only a chance of scattered light showers was forecast during the weekend over most of the West Coast states, with drier weather expected next week. No significant rainfall was reported Saturday in northern California.
In Modesto, the Tuolumne River, gorged by water rushing out of the Sierra Nevada, was washing through the southern edge of the city 15 feet above flood stage.
More than 1,000 homes were flooded and evacuations were ordered for some 3,000 Modesto residents. The city’s sewage treatment plant was knocked out of service.
At First Baptist Church, Jerry Bowen and his wife, Joyce Garland, said their neighborhood and the home they bought in July was submerged.
“We’re scared to death,” Bowen said. “We’ve got five kids. We’ve lost everything we own. We just don’t know what to do.”
Early Saturday, two levees broke in a rural area west of Modesto, 78 miles east of San Francisco in the state’s central valley, police spokesman Kelly Huston said. A handful of residents were evacuated from farms in the area.
Yosemite National Park remained closed Saturday because of damage and damaged roads. Tourists stranded inside the park by flooding were able to leave Friday.
Thousands of tourists were still waiting for a chance to leave Reno, Nev., where the Truckee River had flooded casinos and caused the worst flooding in more than 40 years. The airport had long delays after reopening Friday; it had been closed for two days by flooded runways.
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