Bone Dry in Summer, California Navigates Winter Floods


SACRAMENTO, California, February 28, 2019 (ENS) – As severe winter storms continue across California, Governor Gavin Newsom today issued an emergency proclamation for five counties: Amador, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma, to help them respond to and recover from flooding, mudslides and damage to critical infrastructure.

Sonoma County Sheriff blocks off a dangerous flooded road into Guerneville, California, Feb. 26, 2019 (Photo courtesy Sonoma County Sheriff’s Dept.)

The governor previously declared an emergency for 21 counties across the state due to winter storms. The emergency proclamations direct Caltrans to formally request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program and the Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to local governments.

On Saturday, a storm system will enter California with increasing rain and mountain snow. The Sierra Nevada will see another round of locally heavy snow on the order of one to two feet with strong, gusty winds.

Travel could be difficult to impossible in some mountain passes above about 6,000 feet, says the National Weather Service.

Tuesday, as Sacramento and much of Northern California tried to cope under a third day of heavy rain, the town of Guerneville, with 4,500 residents, has been completely inundated. All roads in and out of town are flooded and the town is now an island.

Utility workers paddle up River Road in flooded Guerneville, California, Feb. 27, 2019 (Photo by Karl Mondon courtesy Bay Area News Group)

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department posted on Facebook, “Good morning. Guerneville is officially an island. Due to flooding all roads leading to the community are impassable. You will not be able to get into or out of town without a boat today.”

More than 2,000 homes and businesses are damaged after the towns of Guerneville and the tiny town of Monte Rio received more than a foot of rain.

Kayaks and canoes are in great demand in Guerneville and Monte Rio as residents attempt to meet their needs until the waters recede.

On Tuesday, the Russian River, at its highest watermark since the late 1990s, overflowed its banks and flooded low-lying areas and roads throughout Sonoma County.

The Sonoma County Sheriff issued an evacuation order for the Russian River area Tuesday afternoon, but many people didn’t leave the old logging community, situated about 20 miles west of Sonoma wine country.

The river crested at 45.6 feet in Guerneville on Wednesday night and the rain is now slowing down.

Red Cross disaster workers have several shelters open where more than 100 people spent Wednesday night. The Red Cross is also providing food, health services, relief supplies and helping people plan their next steps.

The Russian River is beginning to fall but is still expected to be above flood stage until Friday morning. And the National Weather Service predicts more rain Friday and Saturday for Northern California.

One of the more than 2,000 flooded homes and businesses along the overflowing Russian River, Feb. 27, 2019 (Photo courtesy American Red Cross)

The city of Healdsburg, population 11,800, issued an emergency declaration Wednesday due to severe overnight flooding that inundated the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

Delivered by City Manager David Mickaelian, the declaration permits the city to make emergency rules and provides the city access to supplies, equipment and personnel services to protect the community, according to a city statement.

“Right now, the concern is getting everything back up and running,” Mickaelian said. “The intent is this allows us resources on the ground as quickly as possible … which can otherwise take months in some cases.”

The most rain so far was measured in the Russian River watershed. Venado, a tiny community in the mountains above Guerneville, known for being an especially rainy location, recorded more than 20 inches.

Forestville, a small Sonoma County town about 13 miles west of Santa Rosa, sits along the Russian River. Drone footage captured by the “San Francisco Chronicle” showed stretches along Forestville roads where cars are underwater and houses partly submerged. The only sign of life was the Forestville Fire Department, traveling the muddy waters by boat.

Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center spokesman Barry Dugan said about 2,000 homes and buildings have been flooded. Fifty-nine people have been rescued, and there are no reported injuries.

Eighty-nine roads are still closed across the county. Officials said they are planning to allow people who evacuated to re-enter as early as Friday, Dugan said.

Emergency officials warn that people must avoid walking or driving through floodwaters, saying, “Just six inches of moving water can knock you down and two feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.”

The county has a public hotline for questions related to the storm and flooding – 707-565-3856. If you have an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.


Continue Reading