Floods Continue to Plague West

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RENO: This is how bad the flooding is in Reno, Nevada: even gambling has come to a halt. Some of the worst flooding in decades continues to plague five western states, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, closing major highways, and closing, for the first time in 60 years, Reno's Harrah's Casino. The governors of California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho have declared 70 counties disaster areas. More than 15 people have been killed by the flooding, brought on by a series of storms that have swept through the area since December 26, and exacerbated in some areas by the sudden thaw of accumulated ice and snow. In California alone, 95,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as swollen rivers throughout the state wash out bridges and turn suburban streets into canals. The entire towns of Yuba City and Marysville, located on either side of the Feather River in northern California, had to be cleared out, as a levee broke five miles south of the two towns, sending a wall of water tumbling toward them. Numerous highways, many providing the only links between populated areas, have been all but washed away. In Northern California, Interstate 5, US 50, I-80 and US 101 have all been closed, in some places by washouts as much as 100 feet wide. In Idaho, US 95, the state's only north-south roadway, has been blocked by mudslides, forcing motorists to detour through Oregon and Washington. Thursday saw the worst flooding so far, as the Truckee River roared through downtown Reno, closing government offices, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and many casinos for the first time in memory. In Washington, floods and mudslides continue to plague the state, even with the easing of the week-long deluge of rain and snow. Flood warnings are still in effect for 11 rivers statewide. Oregon is about the only state where matters appear to be improving. But I-5 is still closed in southern Oregon and 40,000 customers remain without long-distance telephone service. Rains are supposed to begin slowing throughout much of the region. But the Cascade and Sierra mountain ranges can expect up to another 10 inches of snow before the storm subsides.