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Northern Californians Flee Homes as Rain Continues

January 10, 1995

FORESTVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ Ben and Jenine Lives sat in a flood evacuation center and wondered what was left of their home and their new life.

The Liveses, who moved to Guerneville from Portland, Ore., just a week ago, were among thousands of people forced from homes north of San Francisco by rising water. Parts of Oregon and Southern California also were under siege.

``We always said we wanted to move to Guerneville. Now we’ve got nowhere to go, three kids, and four cats still trapped in the apartment,″ Mrs. Lives said Monday.

All roads into Guerneville, about 60 miles north of San Francisco, were cut off as Northern California was hit by its worst flooding in nearly a decade.

The region has been pounded by seven days of rain, including more than 17 inches in 48 hours in some places. And high wind downed power lines serving about 50,000 homes and toppled redwood trees.

Today the storm moved into Southern California, bringing nearly an inch of rain an hour in a region where heavy rain last week already caused millions in of dollars in damage.

Some people had to flee homes and cars mired in water and mud up to their windowsills. Homeless people were routed from encampments along the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers. Downtown Goleta west of Santa Barbara and the Mission Canyon area were evacuated, deputies said.

Mudslides caused scattered road closings from Southern California north to Oregon, including the Pacific Coast Highway. Roadways through the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area in northern Los Angeles, which filled with water during a 1992 storm, were closed by rising water.

Three deaths were blamed on trees and power lines falling on vehicles, one in Monterey County, one in Sonoma County and one in southwestern Oregon.

Forecasters said they see no real break in the wet weather pattern all week.

In Northern California, the torrential rain revived memories of the Valentine’s Day flood of 1986, when the Russian River rose to a record 48 feet, 9 inches _ almost 17 feet above flood stage.

In Forestville, about 55 miles north of San Francisco, Greg Stocker and his dog Max ate ice cream and watched the rising river from a rooftop perch.

``Been through it once in ’86,″ said Stocker, 21, as the water crept up the first floor of his two-story home. ``I guess we can do it again.″

Northern California’s Russian, Napa, Petaluma, Eel, Smith, Van Duzen and Sacramento rivers all were near or past flood stage. Some vineyards in the Napa Valley were flooded, but they are dormant this time of year.

Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency for Sonoma, Lake and Tehama counties, making them eligible for state assistance. The California National Guard went in with helicopters to evacuate more than 100 people from one area.

Red Cross damage assessor Ted Harris said more than 2,650 families in six Northern California counties had been forced from their homes or were in imminent danger of being forced out. The organization opened 14 shelters for evacuees; others went to motels or relatives’ homes.

Marjorie Wallace, 68, who lost her mobile home in the 1986 floods, was evacuated from another one Monday. She said her family was thinking about leaving California.

``When you go through a flood and lose everything,″ she said, ``what’s there to stay for?″

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