Residents evacuate near dam in Calif.


Workers use heavy machinery Friday to stop water from continuing to seep through an earthen extension of the Prado Dam in Corona, Calif.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 11:16 p.m.
CORONA, Calif. - Hundreds of Riverside County residents were evacuated as a precaution Friday after water began seeping through a dam's earthen extension and authorities released millions of gallons into a river to relieve pressure.
"The water's just seeping through it gradually. No hole, no break," said Lt. Col. John Guenther, deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Los Angeles district. "Right now, there is no imminent danger."
A flood watch was issued for the Santa Ana River below the Prado Dam, and an evacuation center was opened at Corona High School. Televised images showed vehicles jamming the few streets out of the evacuated neighborhoods 50 miles east-southeast of Los Angeles.
The pressure on the dam was the latest effect of a series of storms that pummeled the state. The rainfall eased up earlier in the week, but residents were still dealing with swollen rivers and other problems. In all, 28 deaths were blamed on the storms, including 10 killed in a mudslide in Ventura County's La Conchita when a mudslide buried part of the coastal community.
The original section of the Prado Dam remained firm, but the Corps of Engineers was relieving pressure on it by releasing about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second through a spillway into the river below.
"That is easily within the limits of the river itself. We're not going to get any flooding," Guenther said.
At the evacuation shelter, Corona police Chief Richard Gonzales told people they should be able to return to their homes Friday afternoon. In all, 508 homes, 330 mobile homes and a recreational vehicle park were affected by the evacuation order.
"I'm sorry if we woke you up, I'm sorry if we got you out of your home. ... I wasn't going to lose any of you, period," Gonzales said to applause.
The corps will release water for two or three more days while working to stop the seepage, Guenther said.
To the north, rescuers flew in food and medical supplies Thursday to more than 100 people trapped in a small Angeles National Forest mountain community by a storm-swollen river that washed out three bridges.
The raging San Gabriel River cut off ground access to about 135 permanent residents of Follows Camp, in the forest about 30 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
"We're completely separated from the rest of the world," said Lt. Tim Dowling of the Follows Camp Volunteer Fire Department. The flooding washed out half of the community's fire equipment, including a fire engine that fell into the river.
Besides flying in food and medical supplies, the rescuers also flew out a heart patient needing special medication and a 10-year-old boy who had been visiting friends when he was trapped in the camp.
The storms probably cost the state more than $100 million in damage to homes, roads and farms, according to experts still tallying the bill.
Damage estimates for just the state's highways and interstate system come to about $50 million, CalTrans spokesman David Anderson said.
"As more assessments are made we expect that number to climb," he said.
Farmers in the county suffered an estimated $38 million in losses as rain drowned out crops and ripped out irrigation systems, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

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