Mudslides Bury Northern California

A home destroyed by a mudlside is seen Wednesday afternoon, April 12, 2006, in Monte Rio, Calif.
AP/Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Storms that dumped up to 6 inches of rain over 24 hours triggered mudslides across Northern California, burying an elderly man in an avalanche of mud, closing roads and forcing the evacuation of several homes.

So far it's rained every day but two this month in California, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports, and another storm system in expected to move in Sunday, adding to the region's flood and mudslide woes.

Dozens of rescue workers in Mill Valley searched for Walter Guthrie, 73, whose home was hit by a slide that was about 50 feet wide and 12- to 14-feet deep. Rescuers dug the mud away bucket by bucket, Blackstone reports.

Rescue teams used a crane to remove the debris and planned to tear down the house to locate the missing man if necessary, Mill Valley Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Moore said.

"We've switched to recovery mode," Moore said.

Three other homes were evacuated because of the mudslide in Mill Valley, a hilly community about 10 miles north of San Francisco, Moore said.

In Brisbane, about 10 miles south of San Francisco, three homes were evacuated after a mudslide struck a house. Two homes in Daly City also were evacuated and mudslides were reported in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Just south of San Francisco, a car tumbled as the road collapsed beneath it.

"I just heard first a crashing sound with a car...and I didn't know what was going on," Brisbane resident Rob Cardona told Blackstone.

Witnesses tell CBS News the hillside above the home simply gave way Wednesday. Most residents had been watching the nearby San Lorenzo river,
not the mountains.

"We got up there and looked at it and thought wow it's a good thing nobody was in the house at the time but the mud up there is like quick sand," Boulder Creek resident Greg Kline told CBS News Radio.

Also, a house in Monte Rio in Sonoma County slid off its foundation and collapsed before landing in a heap of debris in the middle of the street.

Six schools were closed in coastal Marin County because the roads were too flooded, said Stephen Rosenthal, superintendent of the Shoreline Unified School District.

Heavy rains were blamed for power outages that affected a few thousand Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers, mostly around the Russian River in Sonoma County, said company spokesman Paul Moreno. Most of the homes had power restored by Wednesday night.

"What we're seeing is the effect of many days of rain," Moreno said. "We have saturated soils that cause trees to topple and cause small landslides that move utility poles."

The storm was expected to move south along the coast over the next couple of days, reaching Southern California on Friday, said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey. One more storm was expected to arrive Sunday.

"Hopefully, this will be the end of the wet period," Anderson said. "In all indications, it will be the end of the long-standing wet weather pattern."

Short haul flights at San Francisco International Airport were delayed about an hour Wednesday because poor visibility forced the airport to limit landings, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

The storm also led to rare back-to-back rainouts for the San Francisco Giants. The games against Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday were postponed, the first time since 1961 that the Giants had consecutive rainouts at home.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in seven northern and central California counties on Wednesday, providing more than $1 million for urgent levee repairs.

"This is," he says, "a reminder that our levees are extremely vulnerable."