Russian River expected to exceed flood stage amid torrential new rainstorm

The river is expected to top its banks near Hopland and Guerneville.|

The Russian River is expected to top its banks in Mendocino County and Sonoma County, swelling to more than three times its current height across an already drenched region amid torrential runoff from the incoming storm, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast downpour, ushered in by an atmospheric river, is expected to drop 2 to 4 inches — and up to 8 inches in the wettest places — across Sonoma County from Wednesday to Thursday night.

Along the upper Russian River, near Hopland, the river is forecast to surge up to 17.6 feet, past its 15-foot flood stage, where water can inundate parts of Highway 175 and Highway 222 near Ukiah.

Along the lower river, the water level is set to crest about 3 feet above the 32-foot flood stage early Friday in Guerneville, affecting homes and businesses in the lowest sections of town, including the Sonoma West Inn and Parker’s Resort.

The weather service issued a river statement for the area Tuesday afternoon, amid a flood watch that extends across much of California.

The predicted high flows haven’t been seen on the Russian River since February 2019, during which the river crested about 13 feet over the flood stage in Guerneville amid widespread flooding in western Sonoma County that affected about 2,600 homes and businesses, with damage totaling more than $155 million.

Guerneville locals start to pay more attention to the river when the projected rise is close to 38 feet.

However, the language that has been used by local forecasters to describe the upcoming storm has caught the attention of Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents much of west county.

In an area forecast discussion released Monday, a weather service meteorologist described the upcoming storm as, “one of the most impactful systems on a widespread scale that this meteorologist has seen in a long while.”

“We are just hoping that it stays low, it stays out of their homes,” Hopkins said, referring to Guerneville residents, “(and) that we get a break in the rain that allows the river to subside.”

Hopkins said there are various areas that expected to flood before places around the river, including Green Valley Road, Neeley Road and Mill Street, which has been nicknamed “submarine flats” for its recurring water problem.

Another route that dips low and is prone flooding is Highway 116 in between Forestville and Sebastopol.

Hopkins said one of her top concerns is the potential for downed trees and mudslides due to the incoming rain being mixed with 50 to 60 mph wind gusts.

“We have already seen trees fall into people homes,” she said. “It is a huge concern that with that much rain and that much wind at the same time we could see substantial tree falls affecting our road network as well as people’s homes.”

Hopkins said she has been working with local organizations to put together resources for locals, who had mobilized themselves and offered their time and resources to help before the rain hits.

A sandbag location was added at Sonoma Landworks, 15950 River Road, and Hopkins is working to find a location for people in flood spots to move their trailers.

Northern Sonoma County Fire District has all of its water rescue equipment, including its boat and flotation devices, set up in preparation for the strom, according to firefighter Tyler Bowman.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

You can reach Staff Writer Madison Smalstig at On Twitter @madi.smals.

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