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Milder-Than-Expected Nora Sends Rains Over...

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YUMA, ARIZ. (AP) — Wet but not too wild, Tropical Storm Norablew through the desert Southwest without the property damage thatwas feared. Crop damage could total millions of dollars, however.

``We can breathe a sigh of relief,'' said Ralph Ogden, thesheriff in Yuma County, which was at ground zero Thursday as theformer hurricane crossed into the United States after hoppingMexico's Baja Peninsula.

While property damage appeared light, one official said Noracaused up to $200 million in damage to crops in southwesternArizona's Yuma County, a prime spot for winter vegetables, citrusand cotton.

Ken Evans, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, saidNora took the greatest toll on lettuce seeds and broccoli andcauliflower planted six weeks ago. They were washed away by rain orsuffocated by mud, he said.

Downgraded Thursday evening to a tropical depression after windsfell below 39 mph, the storm then turned eastward toward themountains of north-central Arizona.

There it dumped nearly 5 inches of rain on the small ruralcommunity of Bagdad, about 50 miles west of Prescott, whilespeeding farther inland early today.

Four inches of rain fell in Wickenburg, a town about 40 milesnorthwest of Phoenix, causing flooding along the Hassayama Riverand prompting some evacuations. An inch an hour was falling thismorning in Prescott, a city about 80 miles north of Phoenix, but nosignificant problems were reported immediately.

Nora was still at tropical storm strength when its center passedover Yuma, where 2.3 inches of rain fell Thursday. The strongestwind gust was 54 mph.

While that's enough in an area that gets an average of 3.6inches of rain a year, it is far better than forecasters' warningsthat Nora could dump up to 10 inches.

``I lived many years in Florida, and this is nothing,'' saidNorm Lucken, who retired to Yuma two months ago.

Still, in Somerton, about 14 miles to the south, the water gotto about 3 feet, forcing the evacuation of about 750 residents fromtwo mobile home parks. Diana Carrazco, 17, said she was wishing fora boat as she and her family waded through the waist-deep water.

``We were scared because the trailer was moving around from allthe wind, and pieces were flying off it,'' said Carrazco. ``Thewater was just pouring through holes in the kitchen and bathroom.''

The residents were back in their homes by nightfall.

As Nora's remnants continued north along the Colorado RiverValley, flooding shut down U.S. 95 between Yuma and Quartzite, 80miles to the north. Twenty miles farther north, high water closedstate Highway 72 between Parker and Bouse.

Along U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Kingman, most motorists satout blinding rain as the storm moved eastward. They also complainedas truckers barreled through standing water. ``All the big rigs aretrying to go too fast,'' said Leisha Gagnier of Huachuca City, whowas headed for Reno, Nev.

``They're a little crazy,'' said Paul Sewekow of Adelaide,Australia. ``Cowboys, we call them.'' He and his wife of Wednesday,Deborah, had arrived stateside only the past week in hope ofescaping similar weather in Australia.

In Phoenix, the rainfall was no heavier than that of a typicalpowerful summer storm. Tucson received only a trace of rain.

``Hurray!'' said Mayor Ora Harn of Marana, just north of Tucson,which lies in the Santa Cruz River's flood plain and was badlyflooded in 1983 and 1993.

``And of course we made a lot of preparations, but that'sfine,'' Harn said. ``We really had to get at it and perfect ourflood disaster plan, and it was a dry run.''

Nora moved quick enough that it did not dump too much rain inone place. Even so, much of Southern California and western Arizonagot soaked.

Nora's outer reaches gave Los Angeles its first rainfall -almost half an inch - in a record 219 days. The storm dumped morethan 2 inches of rain on Twentynine Palms and 1.58 inches on PalmSprings.

The storm caused leaky roofs and some minor flooding in ElCentro, and 15 wooden telephone poles toppled near Seely. Microsoftfounder Bill Gates canceled plans for a party for 6,000 employeesat Fiesta Island in San Diego because of the rain.

Firefighters used a kayak to deliver sandbags to beach homesswamped by the high waves and called in bulldozers to build sandberms and cut channels to allow the water to flow back into theocean.

Property damage appeared to be light but officials had yet toassess crop damage in California's Imperial Valley and southwesternArizona.

``We don't like these kinds of storms,'' said Ray O'Connell, whofarms in Brawley, Calif. ``They can break us.''

By JERRY NACHTIGAL,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.

Copyright 2022 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.