January 1, 2006

California wine country flooding set to ease

By Kimberly White

FORESTVILLE, California (Reuters) - The threat from
floodwaters in Northern California's rain-soaked wine country
eased on 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 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 service said 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 in Sonoma County 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.

In Forestville on 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.


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 on 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 on

Forecasters called for between 2 and 4 inches of rain to
fall across the wine country and Southern California beginning
on 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 on
Monday for the first time in a half century. The last time the
"rain or shine" event saw any rain was in 1955.