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Rain in California tapers off, but more storms are forecast

For once, El Nino pulled its punch.

Following a day of sunshine, as much as an inch of rain fell Tuesday on California's coastal hills and Central Valley. The precipitation produced nothing close to the flooding last week that forced thousands of people from their homes, caused at least $275 million worth of damage and killed seven people.The rainfall tapered off early Wednesday, but more storms were forecast for Thursday and Saturday.

"The good news is there are breaks between the storms," said Kathy Bailey of the Central Coast Office of Emergency Services. "The bad news is they're still coming and the ground is saturated."

Trouble spots remained. Among them was Rio Nido along the Russian River, were muddy hillsides have forced authorities to clear 26 homes and urge voluntary evacuations for more than 200 others.

"It's frustrating because they see their homes, yet we aren't letting them back in their homes," Sonoma County Sheriff Jim Piccinini said. One woman wanted to get back in to get her wedding dress.

Officials said about 1,500 people remained in shelters statewide.

At Clear Lake, 80 miles north of San Francisco, the water rose to 11/2 feet above flood level, much less than had been feared. Some 360 homes were threatened, but only about 25 were damaged. Evacuation orders remained in place.

"Sandbags don't do any good down here," said Elmer Carroll, who lives on the low-lying Pomo Indian Rancheria. "We've got water in the kitchen already. There's one refrigerator and a big old couch floating somewhere out there."