From: Michael Kahn, Reuters
Published January 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Northern California Cleans up as Storms Move South

SAN FRANCISCO — Residents in California's wine country began cleaning up Monday as flooded rivers receded and officials reopened roads after two powerful storms caused an estimated tens of millions of dollars in damage.


Days of heavy storms over the weekend swelled rivers and caused flooding, mudslides and evacuations across Northern California including the heart of the state's famed wine region in Napa Valley and Sonoma County.


Rain continued to fall in the area Monday but forecasters said the storms were easing and moving down to Southern California where officials issued flash flood and mudslide warnings in areas torched by recent wildfires.


Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to tour flood-damaged areas in Napa later Monday and he declared a state of emergency in seven Northern California counties hit by the storms.


Winemakers in Napa Valley, however, escaped damage because vines are dormant this time of the year and growers plant cover crops to hold the soil during the off season, said Terry Hall, a spokesman for trade group Napa Valley Vintners.


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He also noted it was not uncommon for floods to cover vineyards during the rainy season in a region that makes up a large chunk of the state's $15 billion wine industry.


"The grape vines are really completely shut down and there is no growth going on," Hall said. "They can sit under water."


Water levels dropped in the Napa River at Napa where officials said the costs from the storms could reach $50 million and that some 600 homes and 150 businesses suffered damages.


But many houses, roads and businesses along the Russian River at the large resort town of Guerneville remained flooded, and that area was forecast to remain inundated through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.


"Significant flooding will continue throughout the lower portions of the Russian River," it said in a statement. "Many roads will continue to be flooded making travel difficult near the Russian River."


In hard-hit San Anselmo, just north of San Francisco, police Cmdr. Jim Providenza said the flood that swept through the small city was the worst since 1982. It caused an estimated $25 million to $30 million in property damage, he said.


Authorities were now allowing business owners back into the soaked business district built along a creek that overflowed but were blocking access for the general public during the clean up, he said.


"We are into clean up and recovery although it is still raining," Providenza said. "We thought we were going to have a break in the weather.


The wet weather also made for a soggy Rose Parade in Pasadena in suburban Los Angeles, where it rained at the annual event for the first time since 1955. Spectators wore rain jackets and many covered themselves with sheets of plastic as floats and marching bands passed by.


Forecasters were predicting heavy thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 50 mph possible stirring up rough surf and ocean swells along the coast.


(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles)


Source: Reuters


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