Napa floods: $50m damage

  • Wednesday 4 January 2006

Floods in the Napa and Sonoma valleys have caused three deaths and at least US$50m worth of damage.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who toured the valley on Tuesday said, ‘Napa was under four feet of water, creating tremendous damage.'

He said 'early estimates' put the damage at US$50m. The New York Times said damage throughout the state in the region would amount to US$100 million.

Six days of torrential rain caused extensive flooding to wineries on lower ground at the southern end of the valley, but at this time of year vines will not have been damaged. When vines are dormant in the winter they can withstand two weeks of flooding.

Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars told decanter.com, ‘The vines are not taking on water now – there is no root activity. The floods will have been inconsequential for the vineyards.’

He added that the water had receded, but that over the last two days the Silverado Trail, one of the two main highways that bisects the valley from north to south, had been closed.

In areas such as Yountville some vineyards were under nearly two metres of water, news agencies said. Those with premises near to the Napa river at the southern end of the valley have suffered most, with their lower floors inundated.

Elsewhere, those properties with sophisticated drainage systems escaped the worst of the flooding. Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Vineyards, situated a few miles north of Napa city in Oak Knoll district, said they were in ‘good shape’.

‘We’re pretty good because we’ve been farming this land for so long and we have good drainage. But if this had happened 30 years ago I don’t think you would have been able to drive to the winery,’ she said.

The three deaths were caused by falling trees. Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in seven northern counties, saying that 100 business and 1,500 families had been affected.

The storms are the worst since 1986, when 250 homes were destroyed and 5000 residents evacuated, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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