From: Kimberly White, Reuters
Published January 2, 2006 12:00 AM

California Wine Country Flooding Set To Ease

FORESTVILLE, Calif. — The threat from floodwaters in Northern California's rain-soaked wine country eased Sunday even though the forecast called for more rain late in the day, the National Weather Service said.


Days of heavy storms swelled rivers and caused flooding in Napa, the heart of a region renowned for its wines, as well as in other towns northeast of San Francisco Saturday.


"Additional rain expected late Sunday and Sunday night is not expected to cause these rivers to rise back to flood stage once they have receded below that level," the service said Sunday morning.


"However, the rain will probably cause the Russian River at Guerneville to stay above flood stage for an extended period of time."


Guerneville in Sonoma County is the largest resort town along the river, an area of giant redwood trees.


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"We've dodged a bullet. It's not as severe as it has been in the past," said Mike Edwards, a spokesman for Sonoma County Emergency Services.


Some towns did see flooding on their streets Saturday, especially Napa, where at least 4,000 people were displaced, police said. Officials distributed sandbags to help keep back the water, but some houses were damaged in mudslides.


In Forestville Sunday, a two-lane road leading into neighboring Guerneville remained flooded, as were several streets in the area. But local residents appeared undaunted, going about their daily activities as the rain returned.


One couple walked their dog as they tried to survey the flood damage to houses and trailers. Another couple drove to the edge of a flooded street with their groceries, then hopped into a small boat and rowed to their house.


STORM-RELATED DEATH


Authorities reported plucking some people from the waters, in some cases by carrying them out on their backs and in others by flying in a helicopter. A few hundred people spent the night in temporary public shelters, officials said.


Crews in Napa worked overnight to clean up damage, a police dispatcher said by telephone, and some New Year's celebrations were canceled.


One storm-related death was reported. DeeWayne Jackson, 63, died Saturday when a tree fell on him in a park in Vacaville, the Solano County Coroner's Office told Reuters.


Initial reports suggested that the flooding would not cause significant long-term damage to grape production because vineyards were not growing grapes in the winter season.


Officials reopened many roads that had been closed Saturday.


Forecasters called for between 2 and 4 inches of rain to fall across the wine country and Southern California beginning Sunday afternoon.


"A couple inches of rain can really affect those areas in San Diego County that were hit by wildfires last year, causing flash floods," said Pete Weisser, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources.


Rain was expected during Pasadena's annual Rose Parade Monday for the first time in a half century. The last time the "rain or shine" event saw any rain was in 1955.


Source: Reuters


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