January 1, 2006

Floods continue in parts of Calif. wine country

By Kimberly White

FORESTVILLE, California (Reuters) - Heavy rains continued
to cause flooding in towns across Northern California's wine
country on Sunday, with more stormy weather expected into
Monday, the National Weather Service said.

One man, DeeWayne Jackson, 63, died on Saturday when a tree
fell on him in a park in Vacaville during the storm, the Solano
County Coroner's Office said.

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

"Minor flooding is expected along the upper Napa River late
Sunday evening and minor flooding is expected along the upper
Russian River late tonight and Monday morning," the service
said late on Sunday.

Major flooding hit Guerneville in Sonoma County, the
largest resort town along the Russian River, an area of giant
redwood trees where some businesses and homes were under water.

"People are reluctant to leave the river area, so there is
concern there, especially if the rains continue," said Jean
Alves, spokeswoman of the Sonoma County emergency operations

Poor road conditions also forced the closure of the main
casino in the region, she said.

Officials in Napa, which saw flooding on its streets on
Saturday, said the worst had passed and added the Napa River
was below flood levels by Sunday afternoon. The 4,000 people
who were displaced were allowed back, with some finding homes
damaged by water or 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.

Risks remained, and one driver surveying the region had to
brake to avoid a falling tree.

Authorities reported plucking some people from the waters,
in some cases by carrying them out on their backs and in others
by using a helicopter.

Some agricultural land was flooded, and officials said it
was too early to assess material damage. 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.

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

"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.

A few seemed to welcome the inclement weather, however,
with some surfers and windsurfers taking to the water across
the coast to take advantage of high winds and heavy surf.