Flood watch issued for North Bay, rain to continue through New Year’s Eve

Following a storm that soaked the soil, revived local creeks and left some low-lying roadways submerged, Sonoma County residents can anticipate another heavy round of rain starting Thursday and potential flooding leading into the weekend, according to officials.|

Following a storm that soaked the soil, revived local creeks and left some low-lying roadways submerged, Sonoma County residents can anticipate another heavy round of rain starting Thursday and potential flooding leading into the weekend, according to officials.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday evening announced a flood watch for the North Bay area that will take effect Friday and last through Saturday.

Meteorologists expect the rain to begin falling on Thursday. By Friday, it will begin a gradual increase in intensity, with the heaviest rainfall expected on Saturday in the morning.

The city of Santa Rosa has set up a sandbag station that is available only to residents. It is located at the City Municipal Services Center, 55 Stony Point Road, which is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Proof of residency is required.

Residents in and around the Glass Fire burn scar should take steps to be prepared, as rain may cause debris flows on the burn scar, city officials said in an alert issued Wednesday evening.

The next storm is expected to bring up to 6 inches to the wettest parts of Sonoma County, according to the National Weather Service. Santa Rosa and Napa could receive 3 to 4 inches.

That’s on top of the past storm, which started late Monday and concluded early afternoon Tuesday. It dropped up to 3 inches across most of the region and double that amount on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, said Brian Garcia, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Monterey office.

The new rainfall brought the totals recorded at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport to 8.36 inches for the current water year, which started Oct. 1. That is about 2.7 inches below the long-term average for this time of year.

Garcia said the rain was mostly beneficial ― it soaked into the soil without causing mudslides or major flooding. He called it a “Goldilocks” storm because the amount of rain was “just right.”

“Obviously there were impacts in Sonoma County yesterday (Tuesday) because of the rainfall and because of wind but it wasn’t an extreme event,” he said. “Everything stayed relatively well-behaved.”

Tuesday road closures caused by flooding included Slusser Road, between River Road and Laughlin Road, and Mark West Station Road, between Starr Road and Old Vine Lane, both near Windsor.

Mark West Station Road was reopened by Wednesday afternoon, according to a county database on road conditions.

The Sonoma County Fire District, which covers a wide swath of the region outside Santa Rosa, had few reports of downed trees and flooded roadways Tuesday after the rain slowed, said Karen Hancock, a community outreach specialist with the agency.

Firefighters responded to a report of a tree that toppled into a mobile home 11 p.m. Tuesday at the 200 block of Magnolia Avenue on Santa Rosa’s southern outskirts.

A 50-foot stone pine fell into the front of the home, shattering a front window, creating a hole in the ceiling and blocking the entrance to the front porch.

When firefighters arrived on scene, the family in the home had evacuated. Sonoma County Fire District personnel determined the home was not safe and the family found another location to stay for the night, Hancock said.

There were no injuries.

Hancock said the ground around the large stone pine was very wet and she believes the wind could have been a contributing factor to the tree fall.

The Sonoma County Fire District is prepping for more weather-related calls in the next few days because, now that the ground is saturated with water from the previous rainfall, there is a higher chance for more roadway hazards and floods, Hancock said.

Incoming storm

The storm was expected to roll in about 10 p.m. Wednesday, starting with some sprinkles, Garcia said.

By about 3 a.m. Thursday, the storm was forecast to deliver a continuous soft rain across the area and then shift into scattered showers by 7 a.m.

Stronger rains will pelt Sonoma County from about mid-afternoon Thursday until early Friday, Garcia said.

Residents will have a short break from the rain Friday morning until the afternoon, when showers will restart until they taper off Saturday night, leading into New Year’s Day.

Garcia said small-scale flooding will be expected in many of the same spots that received an influx of water Monday and Tuesday, such as Mark West Creek, Santa Rosa Creek and low-lying areas in flood planes. However, the floodwaters in these areas could be higher because the previous storm already soaked the surrounding areas.

“It’ll just be soggy and boggy,” he said.

The Russian River is expected to rise to about 21.83 feet near Guerneville by about midnight Jan. 1, Garcia said. Flood stage is 32 feet in Guerneville.

Santa Rosa will likely see clogged storm drains and potentially flooded intersections on Saturday, when the rain is expected to pick up, said Santa Rosa Fire Department Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.

Sonoma County residents can expect a light breeze during the storm, but not any strong winds.

How to prepare

Santa Rosa residents can prep for the rainfall by cleaning out their gutters, storm drains and drainage ditches during breaks in rainfall so that “water flows where it is supposed to go,” Lowenthal said.

The previous storm and gusty winds brought in a lot of debris, which could block up these systems and lead to property damage if not properly maintained.

Lowenthal also said areas surrounding the Glass Fire burn scar will be more at risk for mudslides or debris flows this weekend.

“We haven’t had the rainfall rates that can cause any major issues with our burn scar but our burn scar is still at risk for significant rainfall,” he said.

He said residents in the area should wary and prepared for the upcoming storm.

The city of Santa Rosa’s sandbag filling station is open for residents throughout the rainy season. They can find sand and bags at the City Municipal Services Center North at 55 Stony Point Road, which will be open 24/7.

More information can be found at www.srcity.org/2963/Rain-Ready.

Hancock urged residents to be informed about the storm and to sign up for notices from Sonoma County emergency alert system.

“Be prepared,” she said. “Have your emergency preparedness kits ready.”

What this rain means for water supply

Since there is more water in the soil following the first storm, runoff into drought-depleted reservoirs during this current rain is likely to be more plentiful, Garcia said.

“We can get some water stored that will help us get through the dry parts of ’23,” he said.

Pam Jeane, assistant general manager for water and wastewater at Sonoma Water, said Lake Sonoma had seen its supply boosted by about 6,330 acre-feet in the past six days, reaching 42.65% capacity. The average 10-year supply for late December is 78.8%.

You can reach Staff Writer Madison Smalstig at madison.smalstig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @madi.smals.

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