California Gets Respite as New Storm Approaches

Saturday, 26 Mar 2011 07:10 AM

 

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Crews along California's Central Coast worked on clearing debris Friday to reopen a highway through the Big Sur area, while officials in a San Francisco suburb kept a close watch on several homes that lost back yards to a landslide.

Building inspectors would be checking on the homes through Friday night and into Saturday, while a soils engineer would check the slide Saturday, said San Pablo Assistant City Manager Kelsey Worthy.

None of the homes have been damaged, though a retaining wall behind one home was destroyed, Worthy said. The residents of the homes had not been ordered to evacuate by late Friday.

The slide, which began Thursday afternoon, is being blamed on the recent rains.

Despite the problems, the region got a respite from powerful storms the past week that brought heavy wind and rain.

More rain was expected over the weekend, but National Weather Service meteorologist Austin Cross said the new storm would not be as heavy as Thursday's storm.

That storm caused a mud and rock slide that isolated nearly 40 miles of Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, shutdown Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people.

Crews worked on clearing several tons of mud and rock that fell on Highway 1 south of the community of Big Sur until dusk Friday. Crews were scheduled to return to work Saturday, though officials could not estimate when the road would reopen,

All lanes of Interstate 80 — the main highway between Northern California and Nevada — reopened to passenger vehicles with chains on Friday. The reprieve came after a full day with traffic halted in one or both directions for white-out conditions and snow slides. Truck traffic remained halted from Applegate to the Nevada state line.

"We're still holding trucks because there's not enough space for them to go through," said Carol Herman, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation in Marysville. As much as 3 inches of snow an hour fell in the mountains and plows couldn't keep up, she said.

As of Friday morning, Herman said, 704 inches of snow had fallen in the Sierra high country this season — almost 59 feet. The highest snowfall ever — according to Caltrans records — was 65 feet in the 1950-51 snow season, she said.

With more snow expected over the weekend, officials said it could prompt another shutdown of the freeway.

To the south, residents in the 45-unit Pacific Cove Mobile Home Park in Santa Cruz County were ordered to evacuate on Thursday when a failed drainage pipe tore a roughly 15-by-100 foot hole in the ground near homes and sent a 3-foot surge of water into Capitola Village, authorities said.

"The water was moving really rapidly and carrying debris, garbage cans, kids' toys, chairs," said Pamela Bone, 52, a resident of the mobile home park. "My neighbor and I were looking across from each other at the river running between us."

Bone said the area around her home was left caked in mud but the home itself had remained dry.

"I think we're the lucky ones," she said.

Derek Johnson, a city spokesman, said crews were trying to restore electricity and other utilities to the area. The gas was not expected to be back on for at least another week.

Capitola is just south of Santa Cruz, where this month's tsunami caused millions of dollars of damage to the harbor.

The flooding from the storm Thursday also affected about two dozen businesses. Damage assessments have not yet begun.

Elsewhere in the state, residents around Clear Lake stocked up on sandbags, as the lake rose above flood stage for the first time in 13 years.

Low level flooding already occurred on the lakefront in several Lake County communities, including Lakeport, Kelseyville, Clearlake Oaks and Nice, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The lake 100 miles northwest of Sacramento was expected to rise even more as it collected storm runoff over the next few days, said Tom Smythe, a water resources engineer with Lake County.

Smythe said some homes around the lake have already experienced flooding and others could be inundated in the coming days. But he said he did not anticipate the kind of flooding that occurred in 1998, when the lake was two feet higher than it was expected to be this time.

___

Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen and photographer Marcio Sanchez contributed to this report. Sanchez reported from Capitola.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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