Heavy Rains Hit Southern California
GUERNEVILLE, Calif. – Homeowners shoveled away mud and other debris and authorities worked to repair damaged levees Monday after a pair of storms flooded Northern California's wine country.
The rain let up over the hard-hit region and moved into Central and Southern California, drenching the Rose Parade for the first time since 1955 and threatening mudslides on hills stripped bare by last summer's wildfires.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in seven counties, and initial estimates put the damage throughout Northern California at more than $100 million. The storms were blamed for at least three deaths, all caused by falling trees.
The Russian River at Guerneville had receded several feet Monday after remaining for hours at 41 feet — 9 feet above flood stage — but officials said it probably wouldn't fall below flood stage until Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of homes were flooded in the scenic community, but most of the downtown was spared, Sonoma County spokesman Dan Levin said.
"When it goes down below its banks, that's when the real cleanup begins," he said.
The Marin County town of San Anselmo, north of San Francisco, sustained an estimated $40 million in damage when a creek inundated downtown under 4 feet of water and coated streets in mud. About 50 businesses were damaged. About two miles west in Fairfax, mudslides nearly wiped out three homes.
Water also receded in the heart of wine country along the Napa River, which rose out of its banks at the town of Napa and inundated several downtown blocks. Napa officials said some 600 homes and 150 businesses were flooded, and damage was estimated at $50 million.
There were no immediate reports of damage to wineries. Grapevines are largely dormant this time of year.
The weather threatened several levees across the state, including at least two in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where water splashed over the top of a levee at Collinsville, forcing 40 people from about 15 homes, said Don Strickland of the Department of Water Resources. In Novato, authorities were working to repair a levee breach that flooded about a dozen homes.
Elsewhere, rain fell from the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles, drenching the route of the Rose Parade for the time in a half century.
The parade, in Pasadena, went off on schedule, but a clear poncho covered the white gown of Rose Queen Camille Clark and soggy wind bent spectators' umbrellas and snapped rain slickers. The crowds were thin.
"We came all this way, rain or shine, we can't go back now," said Ted Pettyjohn, 43, of Houston.
Hundreds of plastic ponchos for musicians and parade volunteers were ordered, horses were fitted with skid-resistant shoes, and float-builders rolled out sheets of plastic to protect orchids and other delicate flowers. The glue that holds decorations to the floats is waterproof and the floats are designed to withstand 50 mph winds.
Also in Southern California, storm-churned seas eroded a sand berm in Santa Barbara Harbor. A building on pilings at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club was threatened.
The storm was drenching the central coast on its way south Monday, causing flooding and mudslides throughout Santa Cruz County.
Heavy snow fell across the Sierra Nevada on Monday, where several avalanches shut down Highway 395, a main north-south route, officials said.
About 89,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers from Bakersfield to the Oregon border remained without power Monday. Officials said crews had restored power to more than 1.25 million customers since Friday.