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California Residents Prepare for More Flooding after Wild Storm

March 10, 1995

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ For the second time in two months, winter-weary residents packed their bags and fled to higher ground as a series of powerful Pacific storms thundered into Northern California.

Torrential rain pushed rivers past their banks Thursday as wind of up to 113 mph broke windows, smashed cars and toppled power lines, leaving about 633,000 customers without electricity at one time or another. An additional 245,000 customers were blacked out in Oregon and Washington.

The damage was not nearly as bad as in January, when two weeks of rain caused 11 deaths and more than $300 million in damage. But authorities worried that with reservoirs full and the ground saturated, even light rain would lead to more trouble.

Today’s forecast was for continued rain and wind, although not as strong as Thursday’s. Mudslide watches and flood warnings were posted in the San Francisco Bay area.

Heavy rain continued overnight in parts of the region, including 8.72 inches in the 24 hours up to 4 a.m. in San Luis Obispo County, 5.63 in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the San Lorenzo River was close to homes, and 4.8 inches in Napa County.

Only light rain fell in southern California, although flash flood and stream advisories remained in effect for parts of the region. There were no new landslides in the coastal community of La Conchita, where a soaked hillside destroyed nine homes last Saturday and more earth threatened to give way.

On Thursday, northern California’s Napa, Petaluma and Russian rivers all overflowed, forcing thousands to evacuate.

``Everything happened so fast,″ said Richard Salazar, one of the more than 350 people chased from their homes in the small wine country town of St. Helena when the Napa River overflowed. ``It just started coming in. It was just a mad scramble to get out.″

Thirty highways were closed, including parts of Interstate 5, the state’s largest highway. Many had reopened by nightfall.

Wind gusted throughout the region, blowing a 3,000-pound construction trailer over in the Oakland Hills, ripping off part of the San Ramon Valley High School roof in Danville and unearthing at least 35 trees in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The fierce wind extended up through Oregon to Washington state, where a midday storm with gusts to more than 80 mph knocked out power to more than 175,000 homes. More than 70,000 customers lost power in Oregon.

The wind also ripped a tree from the ground and dropped it on a car, killing the woman inside. In a separate accident, a 14-year-old boy was critically injured when he was hit in the head by a 15-foot section of tree that fell 70 feet.

Wind-driven waves were so high in the San Francisco Bay that the Coast Guard closed down commercial shipping lanes.

At San Francisco International Airport, two of the four runways were closed part of the day. All were reopened by evening.

A woman gave birth to a baby girl at a St. Helena firehouse because flooded roads and falling trees prevented her from reaching a hospital.

``It was more miraculous than it was frightening,″ Malia Barron Hendricks said after finally reaching the hospital. ``We knew what had to be done and nature took over took over and boy, everything fell into place. The grand scheme of life fell right into place.″

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