Sonoma County fire agencies gearing up to respond to weekend weather calls
Fire agencies across Sonoma County are gearing up to respond this weekend to calls for help related to the next round of wet weather.
The National Weather Service issued a reminder Friday that a flood watch remains in effect for most of Northern California, including the North Bay, through Saturday evening.
The latest storm could bring more than 5 inches of rain to parts of Sonoma County, on top of what’s already been received this week, according to Matt Mehle, a weather service meteorologist.
Western Sonoma County was hit hardest during the early period of the storm. Since Thursday morning, Monte Rio had received 4.27 inches of rain as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Occidental had 3.71 inches and Cazadero had 3 inches.
Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and the city of Santa Rosa each had 1½ inches of rain.
With soil saturation levels already high from recent rainfall, Paul Lowenthal, division chief fire marshal for the Santa Rosa Fire Department, said the department’s rescue team is ready and their boat hooked up to the trailer.
One of the areas they are most concerned about is the 2020 Glass Fire burn scar in eastern Sonoma County, where they’ve already seen minor mudslides and land movement in the hills from rainfall throughout the week.
“Hopefully no issues arise, but regardless, those residents do live in a high-risk environment and we expect the call volume to pick up regarding storm-related incidents across the city,” Lowenthal said.
Other areas in Santa Rosa that typically flood are around the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Cleveland Avenue, Industrial Drive, Airway Drive and Hopper Avenue.
First responders are urging drivers to steer clear of flooded roadways. “Turn around, don’t drown,” Lowenthal said.
“People get stranded and it ties up public safety resources unnecessarily when they could be responding to other critical calls,” he said.
South of Sonoma, Caltrans shut down the intersection of highways 12 and 121 due to flooding Friday afternoon. It was scheduled to reopen later in the evening, but anticipated rain could shut it down again, Caltrans spokesperson Jeff Weiss said Friday evening.
The Russian River, which drains the largest swath of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is set to top its 15-foot flood stage in Hopland, but is not expected to spill its banks farther downstream. In Guerneville, it is set to crest early Sunday just shy of 26 feet; flood stage there is 32 feet.
In Geyserville, however, the river is anticipated to reach a height of 38.9 feet by 2 p.m. Saturday, just inches below its 39.7-foot flood stage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Karen Hancock, public information officer for the Sonoma County Fire District, said their swift water rescue team is also on-duty ready to go.
She said one of the ways they’ve been preparing for the incoming storm is by educating crews and the public about weather forecasts and advising residents not to drive through flooded areas or over downed power lines.
The first places that typically flood in their district include Slusser and Mark West Station roads in Windsor, which often gets shut down, and along River Road. Because Guerneville has a lot of tree canopy, fire crews often get calls for downed trees across roads there, Hancock said.
Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit is also prepared to help local fire agencies, said Jason Clay, a Cal Fire public information officer.
“We’re definitely aware, given the recent rainfall, of projected possibilities of hazardous conditions” he said. “We’re working with collaborators and emergency response teams. We’ll be ready for what comes.”
More wet weather is expected for next week, according to the weather service, with up to 6 inches of rain expected to drop on the wettest parts of Sonoma County.
You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @alana_minkler.
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