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A brief reprieve; more rain is on the way
The Times-Standard


The same flooding that occurred Wednesday throughout Northern California is expected to happen all over again beginning Saturday.

The Eel River is expected to crest again at Fernbridge, rising to 5 feet above flood level, again threatening low areas in Loleta and Ferndale. The lower Klamath River is also anticipated to jump above flood stage. High tides and storm surge will likely swamp areas of King Salmon, Fields Landing and possibly south Broadway in Eureka this weekend, officials said.

Redwood Creek in Orick and areas in Southern Humboldt like Rio Dell and Myers Flat -- where dozens of travel trailers were moved from alongside rivers -- are also bracing for another series of storms.

A day's respite from the rain allowed area rivers to drop Thursday, but a slow-moving storm had begun to drop rain by that afternoon. About 2 to 5 inches is expected by the end of the weekend. More rain is expected next week.

”There's nowhere for it to go,” said 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith.

The Humboldt County Sheriffs Department's Office of Emergency Services is being staffed around the clock after the sheriff declared a state of emergency Wednesday. That will be considered for ratification at Tuesday's Humboldt County Board of Supervisor's meeting, which would send the declaration to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and begin the process of possible reimbursement for damages from flooding.

County risk manager Kim Kerr said that at least $1.7 million in damage to county roads has been recorded. Some communities like Rio Dell have estimated around $500,000 in damage.

Kerr said residents that have experienced property damage should inform the county for possible reimbursement in the future. That number is 268-2500.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the California Department of Forestry and the California Highway Patrol are planning to assist local agencies this weekend.

Dozens of people have been relocated with help from the Red Cross. That organization has opened a shelter at the Rio Dell elementary school that can accommodate 75 people. By 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the shelter already held 57 people, and the Red Cross was looking into opening another shelter.

Rio Dell's water supply was fine as of Thursday afternoon, said interim city manager Jay Parish. Parish said he felt that the county and local agencies were handling the situation in an organized manner. But he wasn't letting down his guard.

”The river hasn't gone down as much as I hoped it would,” Parish said.

Elsewhere, people assessed the damage.

Ferndale City Councilman Ken Mierzwa took a first-hand look at the community, saying the situation was more of the same, “the usual, flooded fields and closed roads.”

A shallow lake extended from Centerville Beach to Meridian Road, said Mierzwa.

Six inches of silt rested on Port Kenyon Road on either side of Francis Creek, he said.

Residents right outside the city limits expressed frustration, as their homes were nearly flooded and huge silt deposits from Williams Creek inundated their yards.

Lynette Matyshock has lived on Ambrosini Lane for 35 years, and said flooding has gotten far more frequent since area farmers began building dikes to protect pastures from flooding by Williams Creek. Silt has filled in the channel, and poor drainage into the Salt River doesn't help. Agencies have ignored the problem, she said.

”Because there's no channel it's almost like it's creating its own channel right toward my house,” Matyshock said.

Matychock spent Thursday removing mud with a tractor and a shovel -- and expects she'll have to do it all over again Saturday.

Residents of Garberville have been asked to conserve water use in what has become an almost annual request. The town's filtration system is overworked and often has to be shut down.

To the north, the Klamath River forced the closure of U.S. Highway 101 and State Route 169 for a few hours. Klamath Fire Chief Lonnie Levy expected that Saturday's storm would again close those roads. About 25 travel trailers were moved from campgrounds near the Klamath River, he said.

But on the whole, things aren't too bad, he said.

”Knock on wood, everything's running very smoothly,” Levy said. “We were kind of ahead of the curve on this one.”

Del Norte County emergency officials were also considering a disaster declaration Thursday, as were several other Northern California counties.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said a total of about 130 houses were without power on Wednesday, following 1,700 outages on Tuesday. PG&E reported that all power had been restored by Thursday.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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