California, Nevada pounded by floods, mudslides
California, Nevada and other parts of the West were bracing Monday for more flooding, mudslides and heavy snow after winter storms pummeled the region over the weekend.
In California alone, a gigantic mudslide closed a section of Interstate 80 in the Sierras and high winds felled a famous giant sequoia tree with a hollowed-out tunnel that motorists could drive through.
And there’s more to come. Flash flood warnings have been issued for northern and central California, western Nevada and southwest Oregon.
“Periods of heavy rain and snow will continue for the Western US through the middle of this week,” CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. Flooding may affect northern and central California, southern Oregon and portions of Nevada near Reno, she said.
Many Western rivers will continue to rise as rain that fell on Sunday flows down the Sierras into valleys and other low-lying areas. Another five to 10 inches of rain could fall throughout the next week in these already water-swollen areas, Brink said.
California hit hard
The pounding rainfall has caused misery for residents, tourists and motorists in the Golden State.
Yosemite National Park has been closed to visitors because of forecasted heavy rains and flooding.
A gigantic mudslide resulted in the closing Sunday night of Interstate 80, the main east-west connector through north-central California.
“The flow of mud and rock extended across the westbound lanes of the road for about the length of a football field and was 7 feet deep in places,” state Highway Patrol Officer Peter Mann told the Los Angeles Times. “Downed power lines forced the closure of the eastbound lanes and complicated cleanup efforts.”
The newspaper said the mudslide happened at the Donner Summit, northwest of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Further south, the weekend storm toppled the historic Pioneer Cabin Tree, an enormous sequoia that people can drive through in Calaveras Big Tree State Park.
“The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen! This iconic and still living tree – the tunnel tree – enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it,” the Calaveras Big Trees Association said Sunday in a Facebook post.
Park rangers told CNN affiliate KOVR that a shallow root system probably contributed to the tree’s collapse.
The hole in the tree was cut in the 1880s to compete with “drive-through” trees in nearby Yosemite National Park. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that cars once drove through the tree, but in recent years only hikers were allowed to walk through it.
Also, CNN affiliate KGO reported another mudslide, along Highway 17 near Scotts Valley in the Santa Cruz area.
Floods in Nevada
Gov. Brian Sandoval directed non-essential state employees in the northwestern Nevada to head home and stay off the roadways Monday. He also declared a state of emergency over the weekend because of the severe weather.
CNN affiliate KOLO said the Truckee River — which flows through Nevada and California — crested in downtown Reno early Monday and was expected to crest later Monday in nearby Sparks.
“That could cause substantial flooding in the Sparks industrial area. There could be additional problems in Reno if a levee at Idlewild Park breaks and lets up to another foot of water head downtown,” the affiliate report said.
Hundreds of homes were evacuated in the Reno-Tahoe area because of flooding. Overflowing drainage ditches on Sunday forced the voluntary evacuations of more than 1,000 people in one south Reno neighborhood, KOLO reported.
Buildings and schools have been closed.
Reno-area emergency officials urged people to avoid non-essential travel Monday morning because of the flooding, KOLO reported.