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Frigid water recedes in flooded Nevada town as storms leave parts of West cold and dark
Winter Storm Heal
Neighborhoods in Fernley, Nev., sit under flood waters as seen from a Nevada National Guard Chinook helicopter during a tour with Red Cross and FEMA assessors along with state officals on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008. As many as 400 homes were damaged when a canal's bank gave way Saturday following heavy rainfall produced by the West Coast storm system that had piled snow as much as 11 feet deep in the Sierra Nevada. - photo by Associated Press

FERNLEY, Nev. - Water was receding Monday following the icy flood that poured into town from a rupture in an irrigation canal during a huge storm that pounded the West, but it was still a foot deep in some homes.

Some residents had been allowed to return but others were being urged to wait until all the water was out of their homes, Mayor Todd Cutler said.

The cause of the canal failure in the northern Nevada desert town had not been determined, but it followed heavy rain from the storm system that piled up as much as 11 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada range and toppled nearly 500 miles of power lines in California.

At least three deaths were blamed on the wet, stormy weather, and three people — two skiers and a hiker — were still missing in snow-covered mountains in Colorado and California. Six lost snowmobilers were found alive Monday in Colorado in an area that had gotten 4 feet of snow.

Cutler said water that had been as deep as 8 feet was down to no more than a foot inside homes, but some streets still had 2 to 3 of icy water. "We're working as hard as we can," the mayor said.

Residents were awaiting word on federal relief from the flooding, which spread over as much as a square mile of the town. Federal and state officials surveyed the town by helicopter Monday with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"We're going to do everything we can to get the people back in their houses," Reid said, adding that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was reacting quickly.

Much of hard-hit California got a reprieve from the rain and snow Monday. The National Weather Service said Northern California will see more rain and snow this week. However, "we're not expecting anything like last week," said forecaster Diana Henderson.

Six snowmobilers missing since Friday in heavy snow in the mountains of southern Colorado were brought to safety Monday after improved weather allowed them to find a spot where a cell phone would work. The snowmobilers, all from New Mexico, had been missing since Friday while as much as 4 feet of snow fell in the area near 10,222-foot Cumbres Pass just north of the Colorado-New Mexico line.

They had taken shelter in a remote station that is a summer stop on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

About 40 miles away, two skiers were missing in the World Creek ski area, said Donna Oney of the Colorado State Patrol. Wolf Creek had reported 39 inches of snow.

In the San Bernardino Mountains 75 miles east of Los Angeles, rescuers on foot and using snowmobiles and a helicopter searched Monday for a 62-year-old man who went hiking Friday just before the storm struck. Up to 3 feet of snow accumulated in the area, said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire.

The storm was blamed in the deaths of a woman who drove onto a flooded road in Chino, Calif., a man struck by a falling branch near Sacramento, Calif., and a woman whose car was crushed by a wind-toppled tree in Oregon. In Utah, authorities said Monday their investigation determined that weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash of a chartered bus that killed eight people.

An estimated 100,000 homes and businesses in northern and central California were still without power Monday. In the snowy Sierra foothills, repair crews had to use snowshoes, all-terrain vehicles and helicopters to reach the most remote spots.

The irrigation canal failure at Fernley released a wave of frigid water into the town early Saturday. The canal was temporarily repaired by late in the day, but as much as a square mile of the town sat under water as ice impeded drainage.

No injuries were reported in the town of 20,000 people about 30 miles east of Reno.


Associated Press writer Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.

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