Thousands urged to flee homes in flood-ravaged California

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Emergency officials are urging thousands of people in flood-ravaged northern California to evacuate from more devastating rain. The Russian River is still rising in Guerneville, threatening more homes and prompting a new evacuation advisory there.

Meanwhile, blizzard conditions have shut down Interstate 80 cutting off the town of Truckee near the Nevada border. It’s not just Interstate 80 that’s closed. Blizzard conditions have also shut down a major highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

While the problem here is snow; in other parts of the state it’s rain. These huge storms are in their third day, and officials say the worst might still be to come.

The Russian River in Guerneville is rising and isn’t expected to crest until later today. Officials say it’ll reach the 40-foot range, eight feet above flood level. Some 3,000 people in Sonoma County are under evacuation orders, and at least seven homes are seriously damaged.

“Our biggest concern is possible trees coming down, power outages,” said John Gulserian of the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services.

In the town of San Anselmo, police ordered people out of the downtown area because of rising flood waters, telling them to either evacuate or move to higher floors. A mudslide pushed a tree into a house in the town of Fairfax, California, trapping four people including two children.

“These trees came down and mudslide and smashed the carport and pushed all the mud out and the carport is buried. You can’t even see that it was there,” Ben Harwood said.

Mudslides created dangerous conditions on roads across Santa Cruz County, closing one highway completely. At higher, colder elevations, the snow is making driving dangerous or impossible.

With blizzard conditions and zero visibility, Interstate 80, the usually busy highway over the mountains between California and Nevada, is closed to everything but emergency vehicles and essential services.

A “controlled” avalanche in Alpine Meadows was intended to relieve pressure on a mountainside, but it had and out-of-control result.

“Today’s avalanche ran fast and hard, hit us, blew the front door open and went up and over our house,” Steven Siig said.

Meanwhile the rain and snow have added 33 billion gallons of water to Lake Tahoe, and it’s not over yet. Also farther north unusually heavy snow falling at the rate of an inch an hour forced a ground stop at Portland Airport.

Overnight in Truckee, people were dealing with widespread power outages as the snow continues to fall. It isn’t expected to let up until sometime tonight, and there’s no word on when the major highway out of here will reopen.

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