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California Flooding Forces Mass Evacuations, Leaves Towns Under Water

California Flooding Forces Mass Evacuations, Leaves Towns Under Water

Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday declared a state of emergency for Sonoma County following days of rain that led to flooding and mudslides along the Russian River.

The river has repeatedly flooded following heavy rains, but this marks the highest level that its waters have risen to in more than two decades.

Orr, 48, was among those still unable to get into his house after the rain-swollen Russian River reached almost 46 feet (14 metres) Wednesday night, its highest level in more than 20 years.

The river was 13 feet above flood stage by Wednesday evening, and county officials issued an emergency declaration.

Sonoma County Sheriff spokesman Sgt Spencer Crum estimates that only half of about 4000 people told to evacuate Guerneville and two dozen other towns actually left their homes. The record river height is 49.5 feet. The high waters isolated both Guerneville and nearby Monte Rio.

The estimated 2,000 buildings inundated by floodwaters were mainly in and around the community of Guerneville, said Briana Khan, a Sonoma County spokeswoman.

Since Tuesday, the recent Pacific storm has brought over 132 millimetres of rain to the already saturated parts of Northern California.

By Tuesday night, the Napa River also overflowed.

About 200 miles north of Guerneville in Humboldt County, authorities say a man drowned in floodwaters trying to get to his home, where three children were trapped. "You will not be able to get into or out of town without a boat today".

"We made a decision to take the rental vehicle through the waist-high water and we got two thirds of the way and then the auto stalled", she said.

On Thursday morning, over 2,000 Sonoma County PG&E customers remained without power.

"We have a lot of buildings that have taken in water and we will be inspecting them to determine if they are safe", she said.

"We saw quite a few fish swimming by my front porch", he said.

"(The proclamation) is not just a sign that we have insufficient resources or we're overwhelmed, but instead that we recognize the true potential worst-case scenario here and we want to make sure that we're mobilized effectively and fully to deal with that threat", Godley said.

Essick said there have been no missing person reports, deaths or serious injuries. Miami and Houston put up with hurricanes.

He added: "People in Florida have hurricanes, people in ME have blizzards; we have floods", he said.

Ryan Lance, front, and Anthony Nash of the Russian River Fire Protection District swift water rescue team rescue residents in lower Guerneville.

Heavy snow has prompted the closure of several mountain roads in the Sierra Nevada. A flood warning and a flood watch are in effect Wednesday for parts of the area, the weather service said.

Red Cross disaster workers have several shelters open where more than 100 people spent Wednesday night.

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