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New Flooding In Northwest, Thousands Of Californians Still Homeless

February 24, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Part of Boise, Idaho, was cut off Monday as flood control workers blocked streets with a sandbag canal to drain swollen ponds, and about 10,000 Californians were still unable to return to homes flooded by more than a week of storms.

High water and mudslides caused by weekend rain and melting snow closed some Idaho highways and some roads remained closed in northwestern Nevada, washed by the same nine-day series of storms that inundated northern California.

Oregon, Washington state and Montana also had scattered road closings caused by flooding, mudslides and washouts from rain and melting snow.

A flood-broken natural gas pipeline serving some 50,000 Nevadans was repaired, but reconnecting customers was expected to take two more days. Another pipeline ruptured in Northern California.

The sandbag ditch carrying water from overoaded Cottonwood Creek flood control ponds above Boise to the Boise River was only two to three sandbags deep, but it stretched along miles of streets and cut off the residential eastern tip of the city.

″Cottonwood Creek will effectively cut the city in two,″ said Ada County Civil Defense spokesman Grant Yee. Residents were able to get back into the main part of the city by using Interstate 84.

Similar sandbag canals carried much heavier flooding through the streets of Salt Lake City in 1983 and 1984.

The sky cleared over Boise on Monday after heavy weekend rain, but the thawing level in the mountains rose to 9,000 feet, unleashing more water from melting snow, said Chris Hill, deputy meteorologist for the weather service in Boise. Pocatello, Idaho, had a record high Monday of 59, and Colorado Springs, Colo., reached a record 68.

In northern California along the Yuba River north of Sacramento, parts of western Linda remained under 4 feet of water and were closed to evacuees. But most of the Olivehurst-Linda area, inundated Thursday when a levee burst, was dry enough to residents to at least start cleaning up after the worst flooding in 30 years, and massive pumps sucked 35,000 gallons of water a minute out of the communities.

″Oh no, my Lord, my God,″ said Bob Kinzan as he pushed open the front door of his water-damaged home in Linda. ″This is where my wife and I used to live.″

Yuba County Undersheriff Dennis Moore said that ″out of the total 24,000 to 26,000 who were evacuated all but 7,000 to 8,000 are back at their properties, but not all can live in their homes. Utility people are working feverishly to restore water, sewage, power, telephone and cable TV.″

Moore also said ″sightseers have plugged up roads, which makes it hard to respond to emergencies.″

Three bodies had been found as water receded around the area. ″It certainly wouldn’t surprise us to find more victims,″ Moore said.

Those deaths brought the total to 20 across the West from the series of storms that started Feb. 11, including victims of flooding, mudslides, high surf, avalanches and high wind. Four more people were missing in northern California.

In San Joaquin County, 1,300 Thornton residents were still homeless after a levee break on the Mokelumne River, said Nancy Hardaker, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Services. She said they would not be allowed to return home for several days.

Storm-caused damage in northern California, where about 50,000 people were forced to evacuate at various times, was estimated at $319 million, Hardaker said. At least 10,872 homes were damaged and 1,463 were destroyed. At least 742 businesses were damaged and 185 were destroyed, she said.

Interstate 5 remained closed by water between Sacramento and Stockton, and state transportation spokesman Dan Cherry said it may take months to repair the highway through the Feather River Canyon in the Sierra Nevada because chunks of pavement up to 200 feet long had been washed away at 20 places.

A retaining wall was breached Monday near Longview, Wash., and 150 to 200 people were evacuated from the town of Lexington after a four-block area was flooded, said Mary Dowling of the Cowlitz County emergency services office.

About 20 people were evacuated Sunday along the Clackamas River in Oregon and a couple and their young daughter were rescued by rope and pulley from an island in the Salmon River near Welches. Five people were rescued from swollen rivers after their boats capsized.

A 12-inch pipeline ruptured Sunday under the Sacramento River near Anderson, Calif., cutting natural gas service to 19,050 Shasta County customers around Redding, and it will take a week or more to restore service, Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman Lyle LaFaver said Monday. It wasn’t known if the break was caused by flooding, he said.

President Reagan declared 10 northern California counties disaster areas. Centers to accept applications for federal aid were to be opened Wednesday.

In northwestern Nevada, Southwest Gas Corp. repair crews connected a new natural gas pipeline Sunday, but officials said they’d need another two days to finish restoring service and lighting pilot lights for an estimated 50,000 customers over 2,800 square miles. The pipeline was ruptured last week by the surging Truckee River.

Some of the area’s electricity also was cut last week when an avalanche damaged a 120,000-kilovolt line that supplies half the power used in the Tahoe area. Repair is expected to take two weeks.

Many highways in northwestern Nevada remained closed Monday because of damage from last week’s floods and mudslides. Washoe County Spokesman Dick Rhyno estimated a third of the county’s roads were damaged to some extent.

Utah emergency management officials said Monday the storms had caused $2.1 million damage to government property in four northern counties.

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