The first of three storms expected to drench Sonoma County through the weekend dropped another inch of rain over the region overnight but wasn’t packing quite the Friday punch forecasters had predicted.
The main front shifted to the south, sparing the North Bay the two to three additional inches meteorologists thought possible Friday, but still leaving the region dealing with swelled waterways, flooded roads, mudslides and toppled trees.
“They were predicting a pretty significant rain through this morning, but it’s not as bad as we feared,” said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa Fire Department assistant fire marshal.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, a mudslide took out a power pole and large tree in the 10000 block of Occidental Road, knocking out power to much of the surrounding area, Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard said. Firefighters and county roads crews were dispatched to the scene west of Mill Station Road to clear the roadway, while PG&E crews were sent to restore power.
Emergency crews reported few major storm related incidents overnight, though a large slide closed Highway 1 north of Fort Bragg, according to the California Highway Patrol.
About 5 inches of rain had fallen in the coastal hills west of Healdsburg by Thursday evening, while nearly 3.25 inches came down outside Santa Rosa at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, said Bob Benjamin with the National Weather Service. Petaluma rain gauges measured about 1.6 inches of moisture.
An additional half inch may fall on Santa Rosa by Friday afternoon before a second storm rolls in midday Saturday and third on Sunday that will taper off Monday.
Though rain was expected to be light Friday, crews were still worried about winds associated with the system toppling trees into power lines, Lowenthal said.
“With as much rain as we’ve had even light winds are a concern,” he said.
With the ground already saturated, runoff was plentiful Thursday, turning some roads into water hazards and quickly raising streams and rivers, with water levels expected to continue rising through Saturday.
The forecast and isolated flooding prompted school officials to cancel classes Friday at several campuses in Guerneville, Monte Rio and Occidental.
But because of the shift of the storm to the south, the flood watches for North Bay rivers were being revised, Lowenthal said.
The latest forecasts for the Russian River showed it cresting at 26 feet Saturday afternoon and 25 feet on Monday, well below the 32-foot flood stage.
Nevertheless, officials throughout the region warned drivers to heed warnings and not to test their luck driving through inundated roads, as firefighters were scrambled several times Thursday to help stranded motorists whose vehicles stalled amid rising waters.
High water spilling across trails at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa forced authorities to close the park Thursday. Also closed due to flooding were Steelhead Beach and Mom’s Beach along the Russian River and the campground at Gualala Point Regional Park.
Across Sonoma County, the wet weather was blamed for a number of problems, including mudslides, car crashes and downed trees.
Santa Rosa firefighters were scrambled mid-morning Thursday on reports that a man was seen floating in the rushing Santa Rosa Creek. Crews were stationed on overpasses between Stony Point Road and Willowside Road, searching for the man. But there were no sightings, Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini said.