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 The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.


Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Vol 33, No. 9

Page 1, column 2

Herger, Riggins view flood damage

 Siskiyou flood damage tops $7 million.

 By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California

SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. – Pre-planning and coordination brought a high level of preparedness to local emergency service operations during the flooding over New Year’s weekend.

After monitoring the weather all week, Siskiyou County Sheriff Rick Riggins declared a “flood disaster” on Dec. 28, which provided more resources to aid emergency projects.

One week later, on Jan 6, Sheriff Riggins and other county officials provided information, statistics and a CHP helicopter flight to U.S. Congressman Wally Herger, so he could assess the flood damage.

“Herger is from a small community and knows how devastating this is,” said Riggins.

Governments are responding quickly to the disaster.

Herger, along with other California congressmen and the U.S. senators urged President George W. Bush for federal assessment and disaster assistance last week.

Earlier in the week, on Jan. 3, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a “state of emergency” in 16 counties that were affected by the storms and flooding. Siskiyou is included in that group.

State and county levels of the Emergency Services Operations are continuing to work around the clock offering information and applications to prepare for federal assistance, when and if President Bush provides a declaration for the disaster. Farmers and ranchers with losses should contact the county office at

Sheriff Riggins praised Lt. John Villani, who only recently took over the helm at the Siskiyou County of Emergency Services Operations (ESO), which is run through the sheriff’s department.

“Villani hit is right on the button,” said the sheriff, by preparing in advance.

Villani and his crew communicated with volunteer fire departments, Neighborhood Watches, city officials and Red Cross of the impending disaster; and coordinated with other government agencies and departments. Alan Stoval, the county fire warden, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) played a vital role, added Villani. Stoval is also the Siskiyou Unit Chief of the CDF.

“We identified medical fragile people and ran supplies to shelters,” Villani said, which resulted from pre-planning. “I was very proud of what we did and accomplished.”

As of the tally last week, 79 residences received major or minor damage. A total of 15 homes were destroyed.

Evacuations were made from a Gazelle trailer park and a small residential care facility in Scott Valley was concerned about its flooded septic system and evacuated its patients.

Villani further explained that meetings were held with PacifiCorp and 4,000 customers lost power, but by Monday all except for two had power restored.

According to Sheriff Riggins, this is the first time that so many sandbags were made available to communities and residents. More than 30,000 sandbags were delivered to potential flooding areas on Friday and an additional 50,000 were ordered from Sacramento. Crews from CDF provided muscle and detoured flood waters from homes. Sandbags were also utilized by businesses, especially in Yreka, where Broadway street became a river flooding over the sidewalks.

Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Betts, confirmed “one tragedy,” which was the death of a 19-year old woman who was caught in a fast-flowing stream. Betts was in charge of the law enforcement field operations and said that all of the employees from the sheriff’s department were on duty throughout the weekend.

The county road department utilized its 80 employees, and along with CalTrans, worked long shifts providing safety during the flooding.

During the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 3, 2006, Brian McDermott, director of Public Works, reported the estimated damage of roads. On the wall was a map of the 23 sites where damage to roads was sustained. In general, McDermott said there were far fewer damage sites than from the New Year’s Day flood in 1997. More than 160 sites were damaged then. Unfortunately, several of the present damaged sites will be costly to fix and he estimated at least $5 million will be needed.

Scott Valley was hit hard with Moffett Creek Bridge receiving a broken support pile and hundreds of feet of pavement were destroyed by Etna Creek on Salmon Mountain. It is estimated that it will be weeks or months before the closed Sawyers Bar Road will be open for travel. Currently the alternative route is by Callahan over into Cecilville.

State Route 96 received damage from the Klamath River near Horse Creek and CalTrans has estimated $2 million in damage to state roads or bridges.




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