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California Rains May Take Break; Many Easterners Still Snowbound

Five houses slid down soaked hillsides Saturday as the latest in a series of storms blew drenching rain through Northern California.

Cloudbursts dumped up to an inch of rain in some areas, and power failures blacked out 87,000 customers and shut down Bay Area Rapid Transit trains under San Francisco Bay.

However, dams and levees were reported in good shape as people worked to recover from last week’s devastating storms.

“It looks like we’re going to have a needed 24- to 36-hour break,” National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Smith said at the state-federal Flood Operations Center.

While California was wet, heavy snow was the problem in the East, where a supermarket in West Virginia had to be evacuated Saturday after its roof started to collapse under the weight. As much as 4 feet of snow fell in southern West Virginia in the past week. Thousands of people had no electricity in Kentucky.

Saturday’s storm in California was expected to be followed by light rain today and only clouds on Monday. But another storm moving across the Pacific could strike Tuesday. In Rio Nido, about 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, an early morning mudslide destroyed at least three houses and damaged two others, said Barbara McFarland of the Emergency Operations Center.

The mud flowed so fast that at one point emergency crews and home owners had to run from it, witnesses told KCBS radio.

Nobody was injured, but officials evacuated the residents of 300 other houses in the area for fear that they could be isolated by washouts or mudslides, she said.

Wind gusts of 125 mph were measured atop Mount Diablo in the east San Francisco Bay area, with gusts to 65 mph on the San Mateo coast. Bridges in the region were closed to trucks, trailers and tall vehicles because of the wind.

Flooding also closed major roads, including Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County and California Highway 29 through the Napa County wine country.

Less than 200 customers were still without power in West Virginia, but an estimated 41,400 customers were still blacked out in Kentucky.

A Kentucky National Guard helicopter was sent out Saturday to carry food to snowbound residents of McCreary County, but the aircraft was forced to land in an adjoining county because of poor visibility in low clouds, said Don Armstrong, spokesman for Kentucky’s Disaster and Emergency Services.

Forty-five emergency shelters remained in operation in Kentucky.

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