National Guard Called In As Rising Waters Drive Thousands from Homes With AM-Storms Rdp Bjt
NAPA, Calif. (AP) _ This waterlogged town in the heart of California’s lush wine country called in the National Guard on Tuesday after a week of mighty storms drove the normally tranquil Napa River over its banks.
″We have 400 to 500 people in shelters, but I understand people who have left on their own could number in the thousands,″ said sheriff’s Capt. Ken Narlow. ″We have no way of knowing.
″The National Guard has been called out. ... We’re surrounded by about 3 feet of water at the sheriff’s station.″
States of emergency were declared Tuesday in Napa, Sonoma and Humboldt counties by Gov. George Deukmejian, a preliminary step in making them eligible for federal disaster assistance.
Since the first in a series of storms rolled in from the Pacific on Feb. 12, incomplete rainfall totals indicated more than a foot of rain had fallen on parts of Napa County through Monday. The Napa River upstream at St. Helena rose more than a foot above the 1955 record level of 18.2 feet.
In this community northeast of San Francisco, which is divided by the river, water peaked almost 5 feet above flood stage and flooded much of the downtown area.
Store entrances were sandbagged to keep water out. The Sonoma Valley Airport outside town was under water, the few planes it handles huddled on a small dry section of the field.
Telephone troubles forced firefighters to use a pay phone near their station, while alongside the building workers filled sandbags.
Napa Valley wineries reported little trouble, since grape vines are dormant during the winter and aging wine was safe indoors.
″We closed yesterday and we’re closed again today,″ said Chip Bouril, assistant director of operations at the Domaine Chandon winery in the little town of Yountville. ″The winery hasn’t had any serious flooding. I haven’t been out in the vineyards, but there has been some erosion. ... There’s a possibility later in the spring there could be some root damage if the soil remains waterlogged.″
At Napa High School, one of the town’s three evacuation shelters, about 400 people sprawled on mattresses and watched tiny televisions while keeping an eye on children and pets.
Burlap bags full of personal belongings were strewn about the floor; the Salvation Army provided food and cots for the displaced.
″The police came around (Monday night) and told us to get out,″ said Joe Horvath, 34, who lives with his wife and three children on the north edge of the flooded area of town. ″There was no water in our place, but there was three to four feet in others.″
Mitch Williams, 23, said he spent most of Monday rescuing people with a small boat.
″I carried a little old lady on my boat because she was afraid of the water,″ he said. ″Lots of people couldn’t swim. I just threw them in the boat and went back for more.″
The county had only one death blamed on the storm. Kevin Bailey, 17, of nearby St. Helena, was drowned Saturday while rafting on swollen Sulpher Creek.