Russian River pours into California towns, swamping cars and buildings

Jesse Hagan evacuates to higher ground Tuesday in Guerneville

Benito Nunez-Rodriguez, 35, of Ferndale was trying to walk from his job at a dairy farm to his home through up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water Wednesday evening when he was carried away by the fast-moving current, said Samantha Karges, a spokeswoman with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.

A resident of a Northern California town isolated by floodwaters who stayed behind instead of heeding an evacuation order says he and many in the community are well prepared to ride out the storm.

More rain is forecast in the coming days, weather officials warn, and an increased snowpack in several western states could continue to keep water levels higher than average.

The Russian River in wine country north of San Francisco crested at more than 46 feet (14 meters) Wednesday night, Sonoma County officials said.

The Russian River is expected to start receding Thursday night.

"I have lived here in this area for the last 10 years and this is the highest I have ever seen it", said Zak Wood, who lives in Forestville, which is about a mile from the river.

While Guerneville seemed to have the worst rain and flooding, other towns also faced damaging water and evacuations, as the Russian, Napa, Sacramento and other rivers topped their flood stages.

Flood warnings are in effect through Thursday afternoon, but the National Weather Service expects waters to recede throughout the day. "Guerneville is officially an island".

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As the storm brought rain and snow to Northern California, an avalanche in the Sierra Nevada forced two Amtrak trains to stop in their tracks and reverse direction, The Associated Press reports. Deputies in a boat then rescued them and the three children from the home, Karges said. At least 2,000 homes and other buildings have been reportedly flooded, and thousands of people are still unable to get to their towns. Officials said they are in the planning stages to allow people to re-enter as early as Friday, Dugan said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office tweeted a photo of a road in Monte Rio deluged by water. On some roads, water had reached the windows of cars, and on one street, it was up to the rooflines of a few buildings. "You see just the rooftops popping over on the side of the road", Joe Pease, a county employee who delivered sandbags to firefighters but had to stop because of deep water, told CNN affilate KGO.

"I could not afford to buy flood insurance", she said.

He added: "People in Florida have hurricanes, people in ME have blizzards; we have floods", he said.

"We're all pretty shaken up about what happened and thinking what could we have done differently", Alexandre said.

"Anything that's been flooded, you've got to rip it out, sanitize everything ... and rebuild", he said.

The National Weather Service categorizes any floods above 45 feet as "disastrous" for Guerneville, predicting that almost all its downtown will flood at that height.

"We took 17 people out of cars and houses during the night".

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