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Floods, Mud & Breached Levees

As Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico battle wind-whipped wildfires across tens of thousands of acres of parched grassland, too much water is the problem in many parts of California and Nevada.

A second major storm in as many days began washing across California and Nevada Sunday, prolonging the threat of flooding as residents try to clean up the thick layers of mud and debris left behind as the first wave of floodwater receded.

Three more inches of rain Sunday in the already waterlogged region pushed the Napa River back toward flood stage in the wine country town of St. Helena.

Levees breached in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, forcing as many as 100 people to evacuate Twitchell Island, and along the Sacramento River near Collinsville in Solano County. Strong winds had thrashed water over the levee walls, which began cracking under the pressure, according to Paula Toynbee, spokeswoman for the Solano County Sheriff's Department.

"It's getting worse. It's actually tearing apart," she said.

In many areas of California, the rivers and creeks are back within banks, though some towns remained flooded or flooded again as the rain, heavy at times, came and went throughout the day Sunday. The Sonoma County town of Guerneville was among those still fighting floodwater amid pouring rain.

Wildfire-damaged areas of Southern California are also under a flash flood watch, with the risk of mudslides as heavy rain heads in that direction. In Pasadena, the Rose Parade's floral floats have been prepared for what could be the first rainy Rose Parade in half a century.

In Guerneville, where the Russian River crested 10 feet above flood stage early Sunday, the downtown was largely spared but low-lying areas and an unknown number of homes flooded.

Officials are urging residents who had left to stay out for another day, and those who hadn't to evacuate. About 50 people were in emergency shelters.

In San Anselmo, about 20 miles north of San Francisco, streets were coated with mud and business owners sorted through mounds of damaged goods Sunday, a day after floodwater 4 feet deep spread through downtown.

"We got hit very hard. It's all pretty soggy and muddy up here," said town administrator Debbie Stutsman. "People are shoveling out."

Stutsman said initial assessments put the damage in town at about $10 million.

Mud and debris also covered the streets of downtown Napa, where officials estimated about 1,000 homes and an unknown number of businesses had flooded, as well as thousands of acres of rural land in the county. The river had crested 5 feet above flood stage in Napa on Saturday and is continuing to drop.

At least one death in California was blamed on the storm, a man killed by a falling tree in Vacaville.

Nevada is also having problems.

In the Sierra Nevada, Interstate 80 was completely reopened Sunday, a day after mudslides shut down the entire roadway about 25 miles west of Reno.

Six truck rigs were caught in the mudslides, but no injuries were reported. Highway crews working to reopen the road had to haul off over 130 truckloads of rocks and dirt before police could give traffic the green light to return.

In Reno, the floods are the worst in nine years, forced the cancellation of the New Year's fireworks, and may not be over yet. Authorities are continuing to closely monitor the Carson, Walker and Truckee rivers and, with some businesses along the Truckee River under 4 feet of water, estimates on dollar damage are still to come.

"At this point, there are cleanup efforts to remove debris," said Kaydie Paschall, coordinator of the Community Emergency Response Team. "But sandbags aren't being removed until the next storm system passes. Why risk it?"

"The Carson is moving fast. You can see tree limbs and other debris speed past," said Lyon County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Page. "Last week it was moving like a mosquito and today it's moving like an F-18 jet."

In Carson City, flooding left Mo and Sluggo's Bar and Grill in 2½ inches of water.

"I have been keeping track and we have bailed about 400 gallons of water out, five gallons at a time," said Mitch Fanning, husband of bartender Trish Fanning.

At least 12 homes and two businesses were flooded in Carson City, and two homes, ten garages, three businesses and a fourplex were flooded downstream in the Dayton.

"It's just a mess. Our garage is flooded and our computer room is flooded," Ann Erwin of Carson City told the Nevada Appeal. "It's a bad way to start the year but we'll get through it."

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