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Record-setting rainfall eases Monday in Sonoma County

Rainfall logged around Sonoma County on Sunday

Venado: 14.26 inches

Forestville: 9.64 inches

Sebastopol: 9.38 inches

Rohnert Park: 9.19 inches

Occidental: 8.70 inches

Santa Rosa downtown: 7.83 inches

Healdsburg: 7.89 inches

Windsor: 7.79 inches

Sonoma: 7.54 inches

Cloverdale: 6.72 inches

Petaluma: 5.64 inches

Cazadero: 4.30 inches

Source: National Weather Service

A Sunday rain that felt biblical in nature after months of parching drought became quantifiable Monday, and the results were about as epic as you might imagine.

Central Santa Rosa saw 7.83 inches of rain Sunday. That not only shattered the city record for one-day rainfall on Oct. 24 (the former champion was 1962, with 4.67 inches), but it officially became the Santa Rosa record for any date. The previous mark was 5.66 inches on Feb. 26, 2019.

“It was definitely a strong event,” said Sean Miller, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office. “But what is really noteworthy is that it’s so early in the season. This is something that we’d usually see in the core of winter, in December and January.”

Other inch counts around Sonoma County included a drenching 14.26 inches registered in Venado, 10.78 in Glen Ellen, 9.64 in Forestville, 9.38 in Sebastopol and 9.19 in Rohnert Park. Higher elevations were generally soggier.

National Weather Service flood warnings for the county didn’t end until 6 p.m. Monday.

Geoffrey Power of Santa Rosa and his son Wesley, 3, check out the flooding on Sanford Rd in the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
Geoffrey Power of Santa Rosa and his son Wesley, 3, check out the flooding on Sanford Rd in the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Surveying the Russian River from a spot in Healdsburg earlier that day, United States Geological Survey field office chief Andrew Watson said he was seeing water levels he hadn’t witnessed in a long time. He had just measured the flow of the river there at about 11,500 cubic feet per second, Watson said. At its peak around midnight the previous night, it topped 18,000. The 82-year average for Oct. 25 at that site is 286 cubic feet per second.

While the drenching barely made a dent in Northern California’s epic two-year drought, it did, for the time being, reverse the receding water levels at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, two of the county’s chief sources of water. Mendocino increased from about 12,800 acre feet to 16,000 acre feet, and Lake Sonoma added roughly 13,000 acre feet, bringing it to 118,396 acre feet. Despite the new inflows, both lakes are still far below their capacity.

Even as farmers, water officials and neighbors rejoiced at the weekend’s precipitation, the weather wreaked its share of havoc in the North Bay. Morning broke Monday to an obstacle course of impassable roads, downed trees and swollen creeks.

Buzz Bozzini, 79, Doubletree Ranch makes his was through the mud as he feeds his livestock in Sebastopol on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. His ranch which abuts the Laguna de Santa Rosa, has flooded many times since he started working there in 1963. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Buzz Bozzini, 79, Doubletree Ranch makes his was through the mud as he feeds his livestock in Sebastopol on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. His ranch which abuts the Laguna de Santa Rosa, has flooded many times since he started working there in 1963. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

The problems included a tree blocking Sonoma Mountain Road between Sonoma Ridge Zachary Lane; another that came down across Valley Ford Franklin School Road, south of Estero Road; and a vehicle stranded in standing water on Mark West Station Road at Starr Road.

Cloverdale City Park will be closed until Wednesday because of its own fallen tree.

Meanwhile, the wicked winds that swept the area also downed an 80-foot eucalyptus tree on the property of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a nonprofit southwest of Rohnert Park, crushing a chain-link enclosure for foxes.

“It was a rehabilitation enclosure and the foxes weren’t in there, because they were released into the wild already,” executive director Doris Duncan said.

Wind gust speeds in Sonoma County peaked in the high 50s and 60s during the storm, Miller said. A 65-mph gust was logged west of Cloverdale, 57 mph at Coleman Valley Road. Mount St. Helena was blasted with at least one 70-mph gust.

A high surf warning remains in place down the whole Bay Area coast. The storm has prompted a long period swell, meteorologists said, which will continue to cause large breaking waves of 20-30 feet through Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Responding to local flooding and/or power outages, and least eight Sonoma County school districts closed their campuses Monday. The affected districts were Bennett Valley Union, Guerneville, Sebastopol Union, Forestville Union, Montgomery Elementary, Harmony Union, Twin Hills Union and Reach Charter School.

Residents and businesses lost electricity in areas all over the county.

At the peak of the disruptions Sunday, a PG&E spokeswoman said, about 25,000 of the utility’s customers were without power in Sonoma County. By late afternoon, PG&E had restored electricity to all but about 6,800 accounts. Then a couple other outages struck, and the number bounced back up to 8,300.

Rainfall logged around Sonoma County on Sunday

Venado: 14.26 inches

Forestville: 9.64 inches

Sebastopol: 9.38 inches

Rohnert Park: 9.19 inches

Occidental: 8.70 inches

Santa Rosa downtown: 7.83 inches

Healdsburg: 7.89 inches

Windsor: 7.79 inches

Sonoma: 7.54 inches

Cloverdale: 6.72 inches

Petaluma: 5.64 inches

Cazadero: 4.30 inches

Source: National Weather Service

In eastern Napa County, a mudslide near Monticello Dam closed a stretch of Hwy. 128 along the southeastern rim of Lake Berryessa for more than six hours, and a dump truck carrying a load of logs flipped on Oakville Grade, about 4 miles east of the Sonoma County line. In Lake County, a 10-year-old Middletown girl died in a crash on Hwy. 29 north of Hilderbrand Drive that also left a man and woman with major injuries.

The cause of that accident is under investigation. “All we have as of now is that the vehicle was speeding and it was raining,” CHP officer Efrain Cortez said.

For those who weren’t put in harm’s way or unduly inconvenienced, the downpour was an answered prayer. Anne Morkill certainly felt that way.

The executive director of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation joined four colleagues in kayaks for a scouting trip on the Laguna de Santa Rosa on Monday morning. It’s a rare treat, even for the people who love the waterway most.

Employees of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation return from a kayaking trip in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
Employees of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation return from a kayaking trip in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

“We haven’t had any kayaks on the laguna since the big storm that flooded The Barlow (in Feb. 2019),” Morkill said. “It takes a major event to get enough water to get across the cow pasture. We don’t get into it very often.”

Just last week, Morkill said, she saw a spot at the Occidental bridge that had shrunk to a trickle. Monday, the channel there was pretty much full. The foundation members were paddling over fence lines.

“There was a sense of relief,” Morkill said. “It gives us view of what this vibrant wetlands system was 20 years ago. There are some negative impacts of flood control, because we’ve tried to control nature and straighten creeks. This part of the laguna still is natural flood plain. It’s just magical to see trees and shrubs adapted to this temporary seasonal flooding.”

Adding to the wonder: There was fall color on the trees, framing the suddenly wintry landscape in rich reds and oranges. Morkill and her fellow foundation members saw tree swallows, coots, Canada geese and mallards — as well as about a dozen bee boxes that had been washed from the banks. They floated downstream, the bees massing on top for an uncertain ride.

Rachel Morrison of Tauzer Apiaries, the company that owns the bees, said she wasn’t sure how many hives had sat on the Aggio Dairy land there, but about half wound up in the creek.

Kate Cesaretti watches in frustration as beehives from Tauzer Apiaries is carried away in floodwater in the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
Kate Cesaretti watches in frustration as beehives from Tauzer Apiaries is carried away in floodwater in the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, Calif., on Monday, October 25, 2021.(Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

“The drought has really pressed our need to have bees closer to water,” Morrison said. “We know it’s a good place for floral forage sources. But it also increases the danger of flood. We weren’t expecting to go from fire danger to flood danger in one week.”

The storm might have come in like a lion, but it’s going out like a lamb, with light rain and breezes into Tuesday. There is no precipitation in the immediate forecast after that.

“For our part, this event is coming to an end,” said Miller, the meteorologist. “The system has pushed off to the south. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a few light showers through the day. But the big rain and big wind, that’s all said and done.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

Kaylee Tornay

Education, The Press Democrat

Learning is a transformative experience. Beyond that, it’s a right, under the law, for every child in this country. But we also look to local schools to do much more than teach children; they are tasked with feeding them, socializing them and offering skills in leadership and civics. My job is to help you make sense of K-12 education in Sonoma County and beyond.  

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