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State Cleans Up After Storms

Gov. declares a state of emergency in 16 counties. Soggy conditions mar Rose Bowl parking plans.

January 04, 2006|Amanda Covarrubias and Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writers

While officials in Northern California on Tuesday worked to clean up from the weekend storms, some of their Southern California counterparts fretted over where to put tens of thousands of cars expected for today's Rose Bowl game.

Parking for the big game in Pasadena will be tight because a nearby golf course that is used as a parking lot was flooded in the recent rainstorms.

In Northern California, officials were cleaning up and inspecting levees damaged by the storms, which dumped more than 7 inches of rain on parts of the state.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Tuesday in the 16 hardest-hit counties -- including Marin, San Mateo and Yuba -- where the powerful weather systems caused flooding and mudslides, washed out roads, ripped up trees and toppled power poles.

The governor visited a levee repair project outside Sacramento to illustrate what he described as the importance of maintaining the state's patchwork of levees. "I've been for a year talking about how important it is to fix our levees," he said. "I think it was somewhat of a wake-up call when we saw the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.... We just don't want to go through the same thing."

Officials also expressed hope that federal disaster assistance might be on the way. During a visit to Napa over the weekend, Schwarzenegger vowed to push the Bush administration to provide help to homeowners and businesses.

"He assured us he would do what he could," said Mary Jean McLaughlin, Napa County public information officer. "But there's a lot going on -- war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina. They're a lot more costly than the problems we've got here."

Receding river waters allowed residents in Guerneville and other hamlets along the rain-swollen Russian River to begin mopping up Tuesday. In some areas, entire farms and trailer parks were submerged as water rose nearly 2 feet on Guerneville's main street, prompting one resident to flee by canoe.

"The roads have been hit, bridges have been compromised," said Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown. "It's like a demolition project, like the river was a jackhammer."

Napa County was still wallowing in muck left after the Napa River topped its banks, causing damage that officials said could reach $125 million. Nearly 1,500 homes and businesses were swamped by the floodwaters.

On Tuesday, the streets were filled with heavy equipment hauling debris away.

"It just amazes me how quickly everyone has responded," McLaughlin said.

Residents and work crews continued to pick up the pieces in the Marin County town of San Anselmo, where a creek overflowed and sent up to 4 feet of water into the downtown area, causing an estimated $40 million in damage.

Meanwhile, residents in the tiny delta town of Collinsville were relieved Tuesday after a hasty sandbagging effort helped hold back waters along the Sacramento River. The town, with fewer than 100 residents, was evacuated New Year's Day, but most people returned Monday to help with the sandbagging.

A few miles to the east, state work crews continued Tuesday to shore up a delta levee at Twitchell Island, which was damaged after winds of 60 mph sent waves over the riprap barrier on New Year's Day. Heavy equipment was being used to repair leaks caused by the waves in the rock and earthen banks.

In Southern California, the damage was considerably less, but the inconvenience will be real to some of the thousands of fans gathering at the Rose Bowl to watch USC play the University of Texas for the national college football championship.

Pasadena Police Department and California Highway Patrol officials urged spectators to use carpools, park at Pasadena City College and take a shuttle or ride the MTA Gold Line to the game.

A portion of Brookside Golf Course near the stadium will be closed to parking because of flooding from the storm. But much of the muddy ground dried up Tuesday when the skies cleared, officials said.

"The good weather has put us in a much better situation than we had anticipated," said Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn. "However, it's still very important that people take mass transit, or if they do intend on parking at the Rose Bowl, [that] they carpool and get here very early."

The parking lot opens at 8 a.m.

Crews worked to restore service to 8,500 Southern California Edison customers in the Inland Empire who remained without power Tuesday, said company spokesman Marlon Walker.

More than 560,000 Edison customers across Southern California experienced power outages since Saturday, Walker said. Wind gusts of 40 mph to 50 mph slammed trees and debris into electrical lines and knocked over nearly 40 power poles across the region.

Roads were flooded in San Bernardino and across the high desert, according to San Bernardino County fire officials, who received more than 300 calls for service Monday.

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