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Traffic Flows Along California Artery Again Where Flood Snapped Bridge

March 18, 1995

COALINGA, Calif. (AP) _ Traffic began flowing along California’s main north-south artery again Saturday when workers finished replacing a washed-out bridge with a span of 12 flatbed rail cars welded and clamped together.

``California can now get back on the road,″ state transportation director James van Loben Sels said. ``This goes to show that water and earth can break it, but we can come back.″

The temporary bridge, supported by steel piling, was expected to withstand any further flooding, project overseer Heigo Orva said.

The Interstate 5 bridge washed out March 10, tossing four cars into a churning creek and killing seven people.

Fifteen people died during a week of rain that ended Wednesday after dropping more than 10 inches on some parts of the state. Damages are still being tallied, but could reach $2 billion, and 49 counties have been declared federal disaster areas.

Gov. Pete Wilson was flying over his soggy state Saturday to get a bird’s eye view of the damage.

A storm front expected this week added to concern over the possibility of flooding in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, where large releases of water from the Shasta and Oroville dams were expected to put heavy pressure on levees, Tom Mullins of the state Office of Emergency Services said.

``We’re expecting high tides in the delta,″ Mullins said, ``but right now it’s OK.″

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