Northern Californians today got a brief reprieve from a string of blustery storms that forced thousands to flee flood waters, buried highways with avalanches, damaged homes with mud slides, transformed quiet creeks into wild rivers and left seven people missing or dead.
Gov. George Deukmejian today declared Napa, Sonoma and Humboldt counties disaster areas, a preliminary step in making the areas eligible for federal assistance.
A winter storm warning was announced for the Sierra and forecasters predicted that heavy rain throughout Northern California would resume by tonight.
More than 3,000 residents remained in evacuation centers, their homes damaged by storms or threatened by slides. Schools were closed in many areas. And the National Weather Service said the break in the foul weather would be followed by more Pacific storms.
The vicious storms that began last Wednesday had dumped up to 17 inches of rain in Napa by this morning. The National Weather Service reported today that 11.15 inches of rain fell in Atlas-Dutra in Napa County during the last 24 hours alone.
Trans-Sierra Route Closed
Two massive rock slides closed Interstate 80, the major trans-Sierra route in Northern California, said Nevada County Sheriff's Capt. Jack Bayer, who estimated the normally busy highway could be closed for a week.
Two other rock slides covered Southern Pacific tracks, blocking Amtrak's route through the Sierra.
Amtrak official Arthur Lloyd said the westbound California Zephyr stopped in Truckee and returned to Reno, where more than 600 passengers were put up for the night.
The rising Napa River pushed many residents from their homes.
"We have evacuated about 1,000 people," said Doris Zulinski, disaster chairman of the Napa County Red Cross. "In the shelters, we've had about 600 or so. The rest of them have gone with friends or to motels."
Weather Service forecaster Bob Diaz said today the Napa River at St. Helena was more than a foot above the 1955 record level of 18.2 feet, while the Russian River near Guerneville was at 45 feet--13 feet above flood stage.
Monday's pounding, Page 2.