January 1, 2006

California wine country flooding expected to ease

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Floodwaters in California's
rain-soaked wine country were expected to recede on Sunday even
though the forecast called for more rain later 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 cities north of San Francisco on 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 agency said in a
statement on Sunday morning.

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

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

"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 on 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.

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.

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 on