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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, their possessions and their new life.

The Lives, 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 floodwaters.

``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. ``Now we don’t even know if we still have an apartment _ we don’t even know if Guerneville’s still there.″

Guerneville was indeed still intact, but all roads into the town about 60 miles north of San Francisco were cut off as northern California was hit by its worst flooding in nearly a decade.

Seven days of rain, including more than 17 inches in 48 hours in some places, sent rivers crashing over their banks. High winds downed power lines, knocking out power in about 50,000 homes, and toppled giant redwood trees. Mudslides damaged homes and blocked roads in several counties.

A garbage collector was killed Monday in Monterey County when a falling cypress tree crushed the cab of his truck.

The storm was moving toward Southern California, where flooding last week caused millions in damage. But more storms offshore were on the way and forecasters predicted the rain would last all week.

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.″

As a young man in shorts and a football jersey cruised by on a motorized surfboard in Forestville, a huge redwood crashed into the water, snapping power lines. Nearby, military trucks took evacuees to shelters.

The 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.

At San Francisco International Airport, two of the four runways were shut down because of rain and high winds. Domestic flights were delayed by up to two hours and many international flights were canceled.

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.

The Red Cross opened 14 emergency shelters. More then 2,650 families were already forced from their homes or about to be, said Red Cross damage assessor Ted Harris. That figure didn’t include those who fled their homes for motels or the homes of friends and relatives.

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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