Helicopters plucked stranded farmers from rooftops and sunken pickup trucks Friday after five days of relentless rain that sent 100,000 people fleeing their homes across the West.
Helicopters were also sent to evacuate some of the 2,200 people trapped for three days in Yosemite National Park, where flooding offered a spectacular show of roaring waterfalls but blocked the only roads in and out. The choppers waited outside the park while rescuers scouted for dry landing spots.In Reno, Nev., casinos removed the sandbags and reopened after the city's worst flooding in 40 years. Flights resumed at the airport Friday afternoon, allowing some of the thousands of stranded tourists to begin returning home. Nevada's largest legal brothel, the Mustang Ranch, was inundated with half a foot of water but expected to reopen over the weekend.
"The girls are anxious to return to work," said the manager, who would identify herself only as Bridgette. "I'll bet the customers are, too."
A mudslide blocked the main road to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the California coast, prompting officials to declare an "unusual event" - the lowest level of alert. It was expected to take hours to clear the road.
Governors of five Western states have declared a state of emergency in 84 counties since being deluged with snow and rain in a series of nonstop storms that began on Dec. 26. At least 22 deaths have been blamed on the storms. The governors of California and Idaho appealed for federal disaster help.
The storms blocked major highways and rail lines in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Boulders the size of a house crashed onto a Sierra Nevada highway. California's scenic coastal Highway 1 was cut in at least four places.
A break in the weather allowed many evacuees from the hard-hit Yuba City and Marysville area to return home, but others waited at shelters, motels and gas stations for the floodwaters to recede. Both Northern California cities were evacuated Thursday night after the flooding Feather River threatened levees. One levee broke, swamping orchards.
"I know that song, `it never rains in California - it pours.' Well, yeah, it pours," said Ginger Washburn of Olivehurst, who was among 900 evacuees at a high school shelter in Lincoln.