The Heat Is Online

January 1997 Ice, Rainstorms hit Northwest

See: "Helicopters assisting flooded West," The Boston Globe, Jan. 4, 1997.

Also:

"Sun Shines Over Devastation as Northwest Floods Recede," The New York Times, Jan. 5, 1997.

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Dateline: Jan 5., 1997: Anticipated $25 billion in flood damages to Pacific Northwest. Parts of the area received 9 months worth of rain in 1 week. States of emergency declared in 100 counties in Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California.

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"Subject: Levee Breaks in California Flood"

SAN FRANCISCO - Jan. 6, 1997 -- (Reuter) - Levees broke along several bloated northern California rivers, flooding wide areas of rich farmland and threatening houses but evacuees in other areas were allowed to return home.

California Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency in four more counties because of the floods, bringing the area covered by his emergency proclamation to 41 of the state's 58 counties.

In addition to the central California counties of Fresno and Tulare and the San Francisco Bay area counties of Marin and Contra Costa, Wilson also declared an emergency in the city of Morgan Hill, 70 miles south of San Francisco, a spokesman said.

While it was too early to estimate damage, local officials said Sunday losses to California's $22 billion agricultural industry could be high. An unknown number of livestock perished in the flood and thousands of acres of farmland were under water.

Workers rushed to build a wall of earth around the small town of Meridian, 50 miles north of Sacramento, after a levee broke Saturday night, flooding farmland.

Authorities ordered the town's 300 residents to evacuate while workers rushed to build an earthen wall to try to hold back floodwater which was gradually spreading towards the town Sunday.

Although skies were clear, several other new levee breaks were reported in northern and central California as rivers, swelled by last week's heavy storms and melting snow, punched their way through the barriers.

``Just when you think things might start settling down, there's been a couple of other levee breaks today,'' Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services, said.

California was among states hardest hit by fierce storms that killed more than 20 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in the western United States.

President Clinton has declared a major disaster in parts of California, Idaho and Nevada hit by floods and mudslides, making federal aid available to flood victims. Oregon and Washington were also pounded by the storms.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt toured flood-damaged communities in Nevada Sunday and was due to visit California Monday.

About 68,000 people who were ordered out of the twin towns of Yuba City and Marysville, 50 miles north of Sacramento, California's state capital, Thursday when the Feather River rose above flood stage were allowed to return to their homes Sunday, officials said.

Thousands of evacuees streamed in to the two towns, relieved to be back after several nights in Red Cross shelters, staying with friends or sleeping in cars. But some evacuees decided to stay away a little longer until they were sure the flood danger had completely passed.

Neither Yuba City or Marysville suffered any flooding, but the Feather River broke through a levee just to the south of the towns, flooding 450 homes and a large tract of farmland. Mandatory evacuation notices remained in effect for the nearby towns of Olivehurst and Linda.

Another trouble spot was the town of Modesto, in California's fertile central valley, which suffered its worst flooding in 40 years when the Tuolumne River reached a record 14 feet above flood stage.

Officials estimated that about 800 homes in the Modesto area suffered varying degrees of water damage. About 150 evacuated families were allowed to return to their Modesto homes Sunday, some to find soaked carpets and furniture. Hundreds of others were still evacuated.

City spokeswoman Connie Cassinetto said an estimated 25,000 acres of farmland might be flooded in a county where crops include almonds, grapes and peaches. Agricultural damage could be severe, she said.

New snow made for good skiing in California's Sierra Nevada mountains although road closures and poor driving conditions made it difficult to get there last week.

``We had a challenging week but the reality now is that our entire mountain is open and conditions are outstanding,'' Howard Carnell, general manager of Alpine Meadows ski resort, said.