Major flooding leads to rescues, evacuations in California

 Flooding on River Road in Guerneville, California on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.  (Photo: @socalpunks on Twitter)
Flooding on River Road in Guerneville, California on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo: @socalpunks on Twitter)

As FreightWaves reported earlier this week, flooding was going to be a pretty good bet across northern California and the San Francisco metro area this week. Unfortunately, the region has been devastated by flooding and record rainfall since Monday. Quickly rising rivers have led to water rescues, and thousands of people have been forced to leave their neighborhoods until rivers recede.

 Flooding in northern California on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.
Flooding in northern California on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.

So far this week, several towns in the northern part of the Golden State have received 12 to 22 inches of rainfall. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), 5.66 inches fell in Santa Rosa, about 55 miles north of San Francisco, on Tuesday, February 26. This is now the wettest calendar day in the city’s history, with records going back to 1902.

Several drivers were rescued in Sonoma County on Tuesday when they became stranded in the flood waters. Officials from various agencies do not want anyone else to attempt driving through flood waters.

“We have had multiple calls in the area between Graton and Forestville area for vehicles stuck in the water. Windsor was able to send their boat to give us a hand. They were able to get the victim from the vehicle and get her to dry land,” said Battalion Chief Darrin DeCarli of the Gold Ridge Fire Protection District.

On the same day, crews rescued two people who got stuck in a mudslide on Bohemian Highway near Monte Rio, not far from Guerneville, one of the hardest hit areas.

“Well, I fell into the mud when the tree fell over the top of me. It happened so fast you don’t even know, you know. It’s like I see an image of a tree. It’s not there. It’s there. You know what I mean,” said Kear Koch, one of the people rescued.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is reporting road closures across the northern part of the state due to flooding. Drivers should expect delays on US-101 and other routes.

The Russian River, which runs through Guerneville, rose above 45 feet on Wednesday. This is more than 13 feet above flood stage, and only a few feet from its record level. At least 2,000 homes and other buildings have been reportedly flooded, and thousands of people are still unable to get to their towns. Guests at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville had to evacuate on Wednesday as the water started rising in the driveway. One guest’s rental car got stuck in the water. It’s still there because the water is too deep for a tow truck to get in and pull it out. The inn remains empty as of this morning (Thursday, February 28).

 Forecast for the Russian River at Guerneville, as of 6:00 a.m. PST on February 28, 2019.  (Source: NOAA)
Forecast for the Russian River at Guerneville, as of 6:00 a.m. PST on February 28, 2019. (Source: NOAA)

As of this morning, Guerneville is still surrounded by water. There is no way in or out of the city, except by boat. For those who did not evacuate, officials say it is too late now. Those who did evacuate are not being allowed back in, with water eight feet deep in some areas. Water was up to the roofs of some homes, and there was flooding in the Safeway parking lot.

The good news: the “atmospheric river” of moisture off the Pacific that produced all the rain has moved out of the region. The Russian River is forecast to slowly recede today, but it could remain above flood stage until around midnight tonight. The Napa River also crested on Wednesday, but the damage across Napa County was relatively minor compared to what Sonoma County has suffered. Flood Warnings will remain posted until rivers fall below their flood stages.

Show More

Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *