Storm to push Russian River over 38 feet; winds topple trees, cause power outages
10:30 p.m. The Russian River is now forecast to crest at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 39.8 feet in Guerneville. That’s up from an earlier estimate that it would top out at just over 38 feet, six feet above flood stage. Officials consider anything over 40 feet to a major flood.
Highway 101 at the Marin-Sonoma county line is closed in both directions because of flooding.
As the strongest band of rain moved through Sonoma County and across the North Coast, emergency personnel and electricity crews were fielding a steady stream of calls for downed trees and power lines, stranded residents and localized flooding.
At least 50 roads throughout Sonoma County were closed by floodwaters or downed trees, several of which came down Tuesday evening on passing motorists. There were no reports of serious injuries.
The latest band of rainfall was set to push the Russian River six feet past flood stage, to more than 38 feet in Guerneville by Wednesday evening. Thousands of residents remain under an evacuation advisory in the region.
Sonoma County school officials announced a list of campuses that will remain closed Wednesday due to the storm. To see the list, click here.
Storm damage early Tuesday afternoon included two outages that knocked out power to 7,000 customers throughout Sebastopol and west of Occidental.
A large mudslide on Highway 128 near Chalk Hill Road also closed the rural highway for up to three days, reported the Highway Patrol.
Heavy rains fell for hours Tuesday morning into the afternoon then tapered off somewhat. The lull was a break before the storm’s main front was due to reach the North Bay later in the afternoon, bringing a few more inches of rain and gusting winds.
Earlier Tuesday outages in the county effected about 700 customers but toppling trees and breaking limbs upped the totals. Additionally, one outage knocked 3,000 customers out in Guerneville, including downtown, but that was quickly fixed, said PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras.
The mudslide on Highway 128 was reported at 12:25 p.m. Initial reports was that it was large and that the slide also had pulled down a big tree. It was considered unstable and too dangerous to work on and CHP officials warned drivers to avoid the area. They said the roadway could be closed for 2-3 days for repairs. A detour was set up at Chalk Hill Road east of Healdsburg.
Other storm-related reports Tuesday afternoon included several other roadways blocked or partially blocked by mudslides and falling trees.
One woman pulled up at the Monte Rio fire station early Tuesday afternoon to report a slide on nearby Moscow Road. As she drove away she called out “I think they got this one wrong. This is a lot more rain than people were expecting.”
- Randi Rossmann and Derek Moore
Neighbors and residents Tuesday anxiously monitored a large mudslide in the hills above the Russian River west of Guerneville even as pouring rain added to the possibility of further trouble.
County officials early Tuesday assessed the situation, determining the seven threatened homes in the upscale river community were not damaged but an assessment of the hillside’s stability continues. The homes have been red-tagged and residents ordered out due to concern for their safety. It’s unclear when or even if they will be allowed to return.
On Monday the mountainside started to give way, bringing down a massive amount of mud, water and large trees, coursing through a gully that opened up between homes in this upscale river community. It’s a neighborhood of a mix of retirees, weekend vacationers and also renters who live here with families.
The mudslide extends for as far as the eye can see up the mountain through a forest of majestic redwoods. It has spilled down across Santa Rosa Avenue and further down across Old Monte Rio Road, covering both with several feet of mud making both of the roads impassable.
“There’s mud coming down, trees falling, it’s so steep and you don’t want to get too close,” said Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum, who surveyed the slide. “It is pretty dangerous to get near it.”
Concerns Tuesday in the area included the possibility of falling trees.
Monday afternoon a 100-foot tree toppled near the mudslide site. “I thought it was a car crash,” said Garen Kessel. Kessel and his wife and 4-month-old baby rent a home near the mudslide, which was not red-tagged. Tuesday he said the couple is anxious.
“We’re ready to go if we need to, it’s a little scary,” Kessel said.
Elsewhere in Sonoma County, mudslides were impacting roadways. Mud closed the northbound lane of Highway 128 north of the River Rock casino, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said. Another slide partially blocked Sweetwater Springs Road near Westside Road.