Thousands urged to flee as river threatens homes in Northern California

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 11, 2017 at 11:17 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Emergency officials urged about 2,000 people to evacuate from their homes in Northern California on Wednesday because a river threatened to burst its banks.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department advised people in Wilton -- a rural community near Sacramento -- to consider leaving Tuesday evening because a Cosumnes River levee in Sacramento County was projected to overflow its banks. Emergency crews and officials were attempting to improve the levee.

Sacramento County emergency services official Mary Jo Flynn said low-lying roads and buildings could receive up to 1 foot of water.

Some residents didn't plan to evacuate, though the Red Cross opened two evacuation centers in the area.

"We have no concerns," Lill Nichols, who with her husband runs a horse farm near the river, told the Sacramento Bee. "We have animals and can't evacuate anyway."

Many of the homes in the area are built on berms or on higher ground.

The river is expected to reach its highest levels since the floods of 1997 when it reached 18.5 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The levees broke in 17 places and 300 homes were flooded then.

"Literally, you could not see the vines. It just looked like an ocean," Tim Chappell, who manages the Kautz Vineyard in Wilton, told KXTV-TV. "At this time, we're fine. Another foot and you know we'll be in more danger."

The Cosumnes River is the only river in the western Sierra without major dam control.

Flood stage is reached on the river when water depth exceeds 12 feet.

Schools in the Grass Valley area and Lake Tahoe were closed Wednesday due to weather-related issues.

In Lake Tahoe, the area had blizzard conditions.

A flood warning was issued Wednesday for some areas in Reno, Nev. A mix of snow and rain fell in Washoe County. Reno officials reported all streets and bridges were back open after being closed because of the flood.

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