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Flooding forced tens of thousands of people from their homes across the West Friday, turned roads and highways into raging rivers and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Governors of five Western states have declared 70 counties disaster areas since a series of storms began swamping the region with snow and rain Dec. 26. At least 17 deaths have been blamed on the weather.Surging rivers and mudslides closed major roads and highways in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California, where 2,200 people were stranded in Yosemite National Park Friday. The weath-er even closed casinos in Reno, Nev.

In northern California, authorities evacuated two entire towns, Yuba City and Marysville, located on either side of the rain-swollen Feather River. Within two hours of the order Thursday night, a levee broke in a rural region about five miles south of the towns.

Up to 95,000 people were told to leave their homes, and police patrolled the empty streets overnight. Authorities feared that other nearby levees might also break, and crews were called in to shore up weak spots.

"They told us to hit the road and we did just that," Freida Williams of Yuba City said while sitting on a cot at a Red Cross shelter in nearby Woodland.

Many crowded onto bridges and levees along the Feather River to watch the rushing, muddy water. Athletic fields, marinas and picnic grounds were submerged under water that reached 20 to 30 feet deep.

Thousands of others voluntarily left before the evacuation order.

Long lines of cars snaked steadily out of Yuba City headingwest and north. More than 6,000 people were lodged at a shelter in Sutter High School, and another 6,000 settled in at Beale Air Force Base.

"We stayed until they made us go. We lost everything in a fire Aug. 31, and now this," said Tamara Null of Yuba City. "We brought our two kittens, two dogs, and a rabbit. They're in the car."

Officials feared a possible repeat of 1986 when a levee broke and flooded 40 square miles, inundating parts of Olivehurst and all of Linda, which have a combined population of about 20,000.

The break this time appeared to be twice as big as the one in 1986, Yuba County Sheriff Gary Tindel said Friday.

Those who fled Linda included Ruth Kramer, who went to the Beale evacuation center. "We lost everything in 1986 - the cars, the house," she said. "This time, we packed up what we could."

The break was different from the one 10 years ago because it is mainly affecting farmland rather than a largely residential area, as in 1986, said Chuck O'Rourke of the Yuba County Officer of Emergency Services.

The water inundated orchards and flooded at least some of the 100 exclusive homes around the Plumas Lake Golf Course, authorities said.

In Sacramento County, the Cosumnes River overflowed its banks and levees, forcing the evacuation of about 12,000 people.

A backhoe driver was swept away by floodwaters Thursday as he tried to protect a mobile home park from the flooding Carson River in northern Nevada. Rescuers called off their search after dark because of the danger.

Reno, Nev., saw its worst flooding in more than 40 years, forcing some of the city's 24-hour casinos to close for the first time anyone could recall. The Truckee River slowly subsided after roaring through downtown Thursday, swamping motels, restaurants and wedding chapels. The brown floodwaters lapped up against sandbags piled outside downtown casinos, which escaped serious damage.

"It's a strange feeling to see the casinos dark," said Harrah's spokes-wom-an Pat Martin.

Flooding left several hundred homes uninhabitable, and the number was expected to rise, said Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, who toured the area by helicopter.

"It's awe-striking from above. It kind of looks like the monsoon season in the rice paddies in Southeast Asia," he said.

The flooding also shut down state government offices in Reno and Carson City, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and the Mustang Ranch brothel.

The airport remained closed Friday morning, as did Harrah's, Hamp-ton Inn and a couple of smaller downtown casinos.

The heavy snow, high winds and torrential rain that pummeled Washington for a week have subsided, but melting snow, mudslides and flooding were still causing damage.

Flood warnings remained in effect Friday for 11 rivers in the state, and 24 of Washington's 39 counties have been declared disaster areas.

In western Idaho, hundreds fled their homes as rivers rose over their banks. Mudslides washed away large sections of road, including a 1,000-foot stretch of the state's only north-south highway, U.S. 95.

The National Guard used helicopters to lift 100 people to safety from the town of Pinehurst along the flooding Little Salmon River, 130 miles north of Boise.