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Hundreds May Be Homeless For Weeks

February 26, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Nearly 10,000 of the estimated 50,000 Californians forced from their homes by flood waters were still unable to return today, and officials say it may take weeks before all the evacuees can move back.

Springlike temperatures in the West, meanwhile, melted more of the heavy snowpack in Montana, causing more flooding Tuesday east of the Continental Divide in Wyoming and Montana, and along sections of the Yellowstone River.

″We had manhole covers that weigh up to 200 pounds floating up from the streets,″ said Jolene Kennerly, mayor of Browning, Mont., where most businesses were closed due to flood waters. ″The water pressure is just tremendous.″

Record high temperatures were reached Tuesday in 44 cities in 11 states from Texas to California, including the 77-degree reading in San Francisco, which broke a 98-year-old record by one degree.

Long-range help was on the way for northern California, hardest hit by the series of storms that struck Feb. 11. The federal government approved aid Tuesday for victims of three more counties - Glenn, Humboldt and Modoc - bringing the total to 12 of the 29 counties for which help was requested.

Gov. George Deukmejian also proposed a $115 million aid package, including $5,000 individual grants as well as federal grants, tax relief and his plea to lenders to be lenient with flood-stricken borrowers.

At least 20 people were killed in avalanches, high surf, winds, floods and mudslides across the West as a result of the storms, which caused more than $319 million in damage.

Up to 4 feet of water kept about 8,000 residents of west Linda in Yuba County from moving back, officials said.

And about 55 miles south, the San Joaquin Valley community of Thornton, at the eastern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, remained under water from the Mokelumne River.

It could be days before the remaining Linda residents get back home and weeks before the water recedes enough for 1,300 Thornton residents to return, state flood control spokesman Naser Bateni said.

In Montana, the town of Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation was inundated with water Tuesday, closing businesses and roads, and a 30-mile stretch of U.S. 89 north of Choteau was closed because of high waters that damaged a bridge.

Winds approaching 100 mph also battered the area Monday night, damaging buildings and derailing eight cars from a freight train near East Glacier Park, authorities said.

Empty Burlington Northern Railroad grain hoppers were moving about 15 mph when winds ″simply lifted a car up off the track over the bridge,″ said Mike Wenninger, a BN spokesman in Fort Worth, Texas, who estimated the damage at $109,000.

Snowmelt also was filling streams in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, and some residents of Box Elder, east of Rapid City, were evacuated late Tuesday when Box Elder Creek flooded, Pennington County officials said today.

An avalanche buried U.S. 95, the main route connecting northern and southern Idaho, under 20 feet of snow, and authorities said it may be closed for up to two weeks. Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Stratton said a narrow, winding detour was available for cars, but trucks were advised to take a lengthy route through Oregon and Washington state.

The western heat wave brought record high temperatures for the date to 39 cities, while records were tied in five others.

For the second consecutive day, records were set for the month of February in Las Vegas, Nev., and Los Alamos, N.M., where it was 85 degrees and 69 degrees, respectively. Records for the month also were set in Albuquerque, N.M., and Boise, Idaho, where it was 76 and 70 degrees, respectively.

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