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5 rescued from swollen creek as storms pummel California

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A man walks through floodwaters Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, in Salinas, Calif. Forecasters issued flash flood warnings Monday throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California as downpours swelled creeks and rivers in the already soggy region.

SAN FRANCISCO >> Fire crews rescued five people today who were stranded in flooding at a homeless encampment along a San Jose creek after a series of heavy storms drenched already soggy Northern California.

In the San Joaquin Valley in California’s agricultural heartland, farmers used their tractors and other heavy equipment to help shore up an endangered levee along the San Joaquin River.

San Jose residents rescued from one neighborhood inundated by water from an overflowing creek were taken to dry land and rinsed off to prevent them from being sickened by flood waters that traveled through garbage, debris and over sewer lines, said San Jose Fire Capt. Mitch Matlow.

The rains were the latest produced by a series of storms generated by “atmospheric rivers” that dump massive quantities of Pacific Ocean water on California after carrying it through the air from as far away as Hawaii.

The rains have saturated the once-drought stricken region but have created chaos for residents hit hard by the storms.

The latest downpours swelled waterways to flood levels and left about half the state under flood, wind and snow advisories.

The storm system began to weaken after dumping more than a half-inch of rain in the San Joaquin Valley, over an inch in San Francisco, and more than 5 inches in the mountains above Big Sur over the previous 24 hours, the National Weather Service reported.

Dry weather was expected to return to the region on Wednesday.

In San Jose, the fire department was called to Coyote Creek amid reports of as many as 40 people being stranded at the homeless encampment.

That number turned out to be inaccurate and everyone was located, fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said.

The conditions of the five people rescued were not immediately available.

In the San Joaquin Valley, a flash flood warning remained in effect following a levee break along the San Joaquin River that prompted an evacuation order for about 500 people living mainly in ranch and farmland areas near the small city of Manteca.

“When the water gets that high and more water is coming, there is just too much pressure and levees can break,” said Tim Daly, a spokesman with the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services.

Dino Warda of Manteca told KCRA-TV that some farmers took their tractors and other equipment to the levee to help shore it up.

In Monterey County, people living along a section of the Carmel River were told to leave, as were those in a neighborhood of Salinas near Santa Rita Creek.

In Lake County, northwest of Sacramento, about 100 homes in two mobile home parks and nearby streets were evacuated when the nearby Clear Lake rose a foot above flood stage.

“It’s very serious,” county Sheriff Brian Martin said of the potential for flooding. “There’s going to be widespread property damage … our ground’s been saturated.”

No injuries were immediately reported.

The Carmel River, which has flooded several times in the past month, and the Salinas River were also expected to approach flood levels.

At the Don Pedro reservoir, which captures water from the Tuolumne River, operators opened a spillway for the first time in 20 years.

In the Sierra Nevada mountain range, part of one of the main routes to Lake Tahoe was in danger of collapsing after a roadway shoulder gave way following heavy storms, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Numerous mudslides have blocked the road for days at a time in recent weeks.

The water level continued to fall at Oroville Lake, where a damaged spillway of the nation’s largest dams raised major flood concern a week ago and prompted the temporary evacuation of 188,000 people in communities downstream from the lake.

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