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Boston Weather: 33.0°F | Overcast

Powerful Pacific Storm Forces Thousands to Evacuate

By Kenneth R. Weiss
and Mark Arax
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES

A powerful Pacific storm barreled across the length of California Tuesday, forcing thousands to evacuate their flood-ruined homes, prompting rescue workers to dangle from helicopters and pluck endangered residents from torrential rivers and further inundating a state already brought to its knees by a weeklong series of brutal weather systems.

The newest storm slammed into Southern California before dawn, snarling traffic - in some cases closing freeways - and bringing Amtrak service and some Metrolink commuter trains to a standstill. As the long and grimy day wore on, mud cascading from the area's hillsides threatened dozens of homes and undermined a series of bridges.

Further to the north, entire towns were isolated as rampaging floodwaters overreached riverbanks. Army National Guard helicopters rescued people by the score from hard-hit Guerneville north of San Francisco even as rains there began to ease.

Near Sacramento in the rural community of Rio Linda, more than 10,000 people left their homes, 50 of them via rooftop rescues by safety officials. James Bailey of the state and federal flood operations center in Sacramento called the storm system a "1,000-year precipitation."

In the Placer County city of Roseville, authorities said 100 houses were evacuated by flooding which exceeded 100-year-flood levels. The National Guard, preparing for more evacuations there, sent three large trucks and a bridge boat to the town, whose retirement home was threatened with flooding.

Elsewhere in the county, which extends from the Sacramento suburbs to North Lake Tahoe, homes and businesses were battered.

The state's rural areas were not alone: Parts of urban San Jose also were under water. And one of the most dramatic demonstrations of nature's fury occurred in normally serene Santa Barbara, where broad sections of town were swamped after 7 inches of rain fell between noon Monday and Tuesday - an all-time record.

The swath of destruction and damage was awesome, especially since the rain is expected to continue at least through Wednesday. Thousands of homes statewide had been evacuated by Tuesday afternoon and the state Office of Emergency Services said initial reports put damage at $41 million - a figure with nowhere to go but up.