Wednesday storm updates: Portion of Rohnert Park Expressway closed due to flooding

Rohnert Park Expressway between Stony Point and Rancho Verde has been closed to traffic due to flooding, the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety said.|

After a pounding rain and windstorm Wednesday that unleashed havoc across Sonoma County for much of the day and into the night, Russian River communities will awake Thursday to a two-fold reckoning: a mess of downed trees, power failures and blocked roads, with the river rising to or just above its flood stage, and the knowledge that the worst appears still to come.

Forecasters now believe the Russian River is expected to surge again in the coming days — on the heels of yet another atmospheric river — reaching nearly 40 feet by early Monday.

Here’s what happened during the first day of the storm.

10:45 p.m.: Portion of Rohnert Park Expressway closed due to flooding

Rohnert Park Expressway between Stony Point Road and Rancho Verde Circle has been closed to traffic due to flooding, the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety said.

Emergency crews are urging motorists to avoid the area and not drive through standing water.

10:30 p.m.: Toddler dies after tree lands on Occidental home

Occidental Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ronald Lunardi said a child was killed Wednesday night after a tree fell on a double-wide along Joy Road.

First responders rushed to the home just after dark following a report of a downed tree into a residence. Upon arrival, Lunardi encountered a man carrying an injured child who was believed to be under 2 years old.

Lunardi said he rushed the child to emergency personnel stationed on Joy Road. They attempted to revive the boy, but ultimately he was declared dead at the scene.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies then took over the incident and brought a chaplain to comfort the family, Lunardi said, even as trees in the area were continuing to fall.

At about 7 p.m., emergency crews and a Press Democrat reporter at the scene heard a large tree fall. Firefighters had to clear trees out of the roadway just to return to their station house in Occidental after the call, Lunardi said.

Other calls the department responded to included a UPS delivery driver whose truck was trapped between two felled trees, Lunardi said. Firefighters walked the driver out of the scene.

A fire engine on Coleman Valley Road was also trapped between trees and firefighters used a front-end loader to clear the roadway.

Occidental and Graton roads, the main arteries into Occidental, remained open Wednesday night, Lunardi said, but others, including Joy and Coleman Valley roads, were closed.

9:10 p.m.: Falling trees a problem across Sonoma County

Permit Sonoma building inspectors responded Wednesday night to Joy Road in Occidental, where high winds continued to topple trees. Earlier in the evening a fallen tree damaged a home in the area, said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents west county.

RedCom, the county’s dispatch center, was facing an “extraordinary” volume of calls, she said.

“Dispatchers are doing an amazing job,” Hopkins said, adding that “first responders are working as hard as they can. There are trees coming down constantly right now in west county.”

Trees had fallen into houses at multiple locations, Gold Ridge Fire Protection District Chief Shepley Schroth-Cary said. As of 9 p.m., he did not yet have a precise count of how many had been downed.

Tree falls were stacking up on fire districts around the county, and in some cases — particularly in the Fort Ross area — were complicating first responders’ abilities to reach those in need of help, Schroth-Cary said.

“Water is an issue but so far the first wave of the storm the issue has been the wind and the trees into power lines and houses,” he said. “Calls are occurring quicker than fire agencies can respond to them.”

Areas of the county west of Sebastopol and northwest along the coast were hardest hit, he said.

Joy Road was closed at 8:20 p.m. Wednesday, as trees continued to fall along the rural byway. A portion of Highway 1 was also closed at its juncture with Bodega Highway.

Local districts sent five fire engines to the Sea Ranch area to assist, including one from the Graton Fire Protection District, Chief Bill Bullard said.

8:50 p.m. Petaluma roads underwater, but not closed

Portions of three Petaluma roads were under water Wednesday night, although there was no indication conditions were significantly severe in those locations.

Westbound Lakeville Highway was flooded east of Browns Lane, according to the Petaluma Police Department.

Minor flooding was happening at the intersection of Browns Lane and Ely Boulevard South, south of Frates Road. The intersection is about one-third of a mile from Lakeville Highway.

The police department wants motorists to drive slowly when passing through these areas.

City officials are monitoring the weather and local streams. If road closures are instituted, drivers are discouraged from passing flooding signs, according to police.

“If drivers encounter standing water on the roadway, they are advised to not attempt to drive through the water as many times the standing water is much deeper than it appears,” authorities said in a news release.

Residents can report flooding or downed utility lines by calling police at 707-778-4372.

Anyone who finds blocked storm drains, road hazards or fallen trees is asked to call 707-778-4546, ext 2.

8:50 p.m.: Even more schools are closed because of the storm

The list of school closures continues to grow Wednesday.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Sonoma County Office of Education announced another updated list of closures scheduled for Thursday. They are:

  • Fort Ross Elementary District;
  • Guerneville School District;
  • Harmony Union School District;
  • Horicon School District;
  • Kashia School District;
  • Monte Rio Union School District;
  • Montgomery Elementary District;
  • Twin Hills Union School District;
  • West Side Union Elementary District:
  • West Sonoma County Union High School District;
  • Credo High School;
  • Pathways Charter (open for distance learning);
  • REACH Charter.

8:20 p.m.: Heavy rain no longer so heavy, but the storm continues

While there is a noticeable decline in the pace of Wednesday night’s downpour, Sonoma County is still a long way off from the worst part of the storm pounding Northern California.

Moderate rainfall should continue through the night, forecasters said; it just won’t be as continuous and widespread as the hours-long showers that fell much of Wednesday afternoon and evening.

“It’ll be more intermittent, but it will continue,” Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office in Monterey.

Up to 10 inches of rain are still in store for the highest elevations, as forecasters have predicted over the past several days.

Conditions aren’t expected to clear up until at least Thursday afternoon.

Although rainfall appears to be easing up, Bingaman cautioned there will still be enough to maintain the threat of flooding.

7:50 p.m.: Paramedics and deputies respond to home near Occidental

Emergency crews rushed to the scene of an Occidental-area home in a wooded area Wednesday night where trees had reportedly fallen on the home.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics were at the home near Joy and Spechter roads.

The sound of falling trees was prevalent and even had paramedics watching out for danger.

Officials would not comment on the incident when approached by a Press Democrat reporter at the scene.

Redcom dispatchers referred questions to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

7:30 p.m.: Ongoing storm is a ‘very dynamic’ situation, Sonoma County fire official says

Karen Hancock, spokeswoman for Sonoma County Fire District said Wednesday evening that the agency is staffed at emergency levels and getting hammered with back-to-back calls for mudslides, trees on vehicles, and water flowing over roadways.

"It's very dynamic right now," she said, standing in front of Station 9 on Armstrong Woods Road as the loud cracking sounds of tree branches came from the hillside across the street.

"We just heard a tree come down across the station," Hancock said, adding that the dangers posed by high winds and water-logged terrain are of grave concern in the coming days.

6:40 p.m.: Officials release updated list of school closures

The Sonoma County Office of Education Wednesday evening released an updated list of closures due to the ongoing storm. l

As of 6:40 p.m., these school districts or schools will be closed on Thursday:

  • Fort Ross Elementary District;
  • Guerneville School District;
  • Harmony Union School District;
  • Horicon School District;
  • Kashia School District;
  • Monte Rio Union School District;
  • Montgomery Elementary District;
  • West Side Union Elementary District;
  • West Sonoma County Union High School District;
  • Credo High School;
  • Pathways Charter (open for distance learning).

6 p.m.: Here’s how many PG&E customers are in the dark

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced nearly 20,000 North Bay customers are in the dark because of Wednesday’s storm.

The figure represents data as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, which shows that 19,874 homes and businesses are without power, according to the utility.

The utility did not specify how many customers are in Sonoma County.

There are 76,332 customers across the Bay Area without power, according to PG&E. That includes 46,646 customers in San Francisco and the Peninsula; 5,396 customers in the East Bay and 4,416 customers in the South Bay.

In a statement, PG&E officials said, “PG&E has prepared an all-hands-on-deck response with more than 3,000 crew members, which includes contract and mutual-aid personnel. The incoming storm expected to deliver significant precipitation and heavy winds, we will focus on how customers can prepare with safety in mind.”

5:52 p.m.: Santa Rosa wastewater flows are within capacity, officials say

Santa Rosa’s regional wastewater treatment plant is seeing slightly more than average flows but still far below record levels recorded in 2019.

Wastewater staff at the Laguna Treatment Plant in southwestern Santa Rosa reported seeing flows between 25 million to 35 million gallons of wastewater and runoff on Wednesday, up from an average winter flow of 19 million gallons per day, spokesperson Elise Miller said.

Miller said the plant is seeing flows within capacity to continue operating, even with additional rain projected in the coming days.

She added there were also no concerns that treated sewage would need to be released into local creeks or the Laguna de Santa Rosa, similar to what was done during a March 2019 storm that caused record rainfall.

During that deluge, rain from an atmospheric river boosted flows at the plant to as much as 105 million gallons, putting a strain on the system.

Staff at the Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant in southwest Santa Rosa fill a temporary dam Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023 as they prepare for the incoming storm. (City of Santa Rosa)
Staff at the Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant in southwest Santa Rosa fill a temporary dam Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023 as they prepare for the incoming storm. (City of Santa Rosa)

The plant, on Llano Road, treats wastewater from about 230,000 customers in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati, Rohnert Park and parts of unincorporated Sonoma County.

Currently, diversion tanks where Santa Rosa holds water that needs to be treated are empty and the storage ponds are less than half full, Miller said.

Staff is closely monitoring for flood potential at the plant and they’ve installed inflatable dams to protect equipment as a precaution. Team members are also in the field conducting visual inspections of pipes but there was no reported damage or breaks across the system, she said.

“We’ve been in three years of drought but we’ve had these big storms before,” Miller said. “Staff has been working and preparing for the storm, putting in as many preventative measure and making preparations at the treatment plant.”

5:45 p.m.: West County residents in the dark

A power failure is affecting portions of western Sonoma County, mostly in the region near Guerneville.

As many as 5,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers are in the dark in the area near Guerneville, according to the utility’s outage map.

According to a Press Democrat reporter in town, several businesses are operating on backup generators. The local Safeway grocery store also remains open.

The PG&E outage map shows the area surrounding Occidental also is in the middle of a major outage.

This is also happening along Highway 1 going into Mendocino County.

5:15 p.m.: Evacuation warning issued for low-lying areas in Sonoma County

Sonoma County emergency officials are issuing an evacuation warning for residents in low-lying areas of the lower Russian River from Healdsburg to Jenner, amid worsening predictions for flooding in the area as the storms continue.

The warning, expected to go out Wednesday evening, is not an order but an alert that flooding is forecast along the river beginning late Thursday. Evacuation orders could be coming in the near future from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and residents should be prepared to evacuate to higher ground on a moment's notice, Sonoma County Communications Manager Paul Gullixson said.

Federal projections for the river at Guerneville show it reaching its flood stage late Thursday, then dropping below flood level for a few days before rising again to nearly 40 feet early Monday — or about 8 feet above flood stage, according to the latest models from the California Nevada River Forecast Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The river could linger above flood stage for several days.

Gullixson said several thousand people would be covered by the warning, which was to be issued through Nixle and through wireless emergency alert, or WEA.

EVACUATION MAP: Residents can consult a map at to see if they are affected.

County officials are opening an evacuation shelter in the Kraft Building at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa for those who need a safe, dry place to go.

5 p.m.: Local school closures announced

The Sonoma County Office of Education announced school closures for Thursday due to the storm and other related conditions.

As of Wednesday evening, the following schools are closed:

  • West Sonoma County Union High School District;
  • Horicon School in Annapolis;
  • Fort Ross Elementary;
  • Guerneville School;
  • Montgomery Elementary in Cazadero;
  • Pathways Charter.

4:45 p.m.: Heavy rains reach Santa Rosa, expected to continue through the night

Drenching rain that developed over Santa Rosa at about 4 p.m. is reflective of the significant downpour forecasters have been anticipating will last through the night Wednesday.

The storm is continuing to move south, but will likely remain over the North Bay until 10 p.m. or so, said Brayden Murdoch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office in Monterey.

“This is kind of what you’re going to be setting up for for the next few hours,” he said just after 4 p.m. “You’re going to see moments of pretty heavy rainfall.”

There will be additional precipitation after 10 p.m. but Murdoch described it as “hits or misses.”

By 4 p.m., the downpour in western Sonoma County also intensified.

Pools of water were developing along Valley Ford Road near Highway 1, while the winds increased in strength.

Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard advised conditions were only expected to get worse into the evening.

4:15 p.m.: No delays at Charles M Schulz-Sonoma County Airport

It’s business as usual at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport as the storm is expected to worsen locally through Wednesday night into Thursday.

The airport typically sees fewer flights after the holiday season, and no major delays or cancellations were reported Wednesday, according to airport Administrative Manager Adam Borovkoff.

An online flight schedule shows the latest flights arriving and departing from the regional airport are scheduled just after 6 p.m. as the heaviest rain bands move through the area.

3:55 p.m.: Storm prompts some west county clinics to switch to remote or virtual medical care

The storm and threat of flooding has forced the clinics of the West County Health Centers to transition to remote and virtual care for local patients.

West County Health Centers operates clinics in Forestville, Sebastopol, Occidental and Guerneville. The consortium of agencies is the west county’s largest primary care provider and an essential health care resource for rural residents, many of whom are among among Sonoma County’s most vulnerable.

Dr. Jason Cunningham, West County Health Centers’ CEO, said clinics in Guerneville and Occidental will likely provide service remotely and virtually Wednesday evening, as patient access to the facilities will likely be complicated by wind and fallen trees.

The system’s new clinic in Guerneville will operate remotely and virtually through Sunday, with staff possibly being redeployed to clinics in Sebastopol and Occidental.

The closure of the Guerneville clinic would pose a real burden for local residents, according to Cunningham.

“Our most vulnerable patient population is in Guerneville,” he said.

3:50 p.m.: Russian River overflow projections in Guerneville worsening

Predictions for flooding on the lower Russian River are getting worse, with federal forecasters now saying the river could reach nearly 8 feet above flood stage by early Monday, as rain from the current storm and systems on the way contribute more flow to the watershed.

The river is first expected to reach flood stage in Guerneville around midnight Thursday, cresting at 32.9 feet around 1 a.m. before falling again below monitor level. Flood stage is 32 feet.

But federal projections now show the river potentially rising to 39.7 feet by early Monday and lingering above flood stage for least another day and a half, according to the latest models from the California Nevada River Forecast Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service)
(National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service)

What happens next depends on the day-to-day rainfall, as a series of storms continue passing through the system.

The longer term outlook is particularly concerning because the ground already is completely saturated, and forecasters say the rain will continue at least for a week, with 10 to 15 inches of rain expected over the next seven days in most areas of Sonoma County.

3:30 p.m.: The Barlow businesses prepared to protect outdoor market district from potential flooding

At The Barlow in Sebastopol, some businesses, such as the Red Bird Bakery, are preparing to protect themselves from flooding should the Laguna de Santa Rosa overflow into the market district.

Sandbags, which are being used to create flood barriers, are stacked in front of some businesses’ doors.

Faith Boisclair, 19, a barista at Red Bird Bakery, said that while The Barlow hasn’t experienced much flooding so far Wednesday, she can’t say the same thing about her home.

She said the yard of her Hutchins Avenue house, about a mile south of the outdoor shopping mall, is “like an ocean right now.”

3 p.m.: Sebastopol mobile home community prepares to evacuate, if necessary

Park Village, a Sebastopol mobile home community, is preparing to evacuate if flooding worsens, officials there said Wednesday afternoon.

Located along Laguna de Santa Rosa, the park, which includes residents who were previously unhoused, often floods during strong storms, said park manager Tina Nicolai.

Wednesday afternoon, water was already starting to collect along the roadways and in residents’ yards.

Nicolai said she’s been handing out paper copies of the park’s emergency evacuation plan to residents.

“I’m just making sure people have information so they can prepare now and evacuate at a moment’s notice,” Nicolai said.

2:45 p.m.: Sonoma County will get the rain, Mendocino County will get the wind, meteorologist says

Rain developed in Mendocino County before the sun came up Wednesday, as a result and conditions there aren’t expected to be as wet as what’s in store for Sonoma county.

Forecasters have predicted Sonoma County could get as much as 8 inches of rain by Thursday afternoon, but Mendocino County likely will only get 5 inches.

Jonathan Garner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Eureka office, said rain was moving inland when he woke up around 6 a.m. Wednesday.

By 2:30 p.m., he said the area continues "to get big rain as we speak.”

Despite this, regions along the Mendocino County coast had recorded only about three-quarters of an inch of rain over the previous 12 hours. Areas further inland, but west of Highway 101, had 0.84 of an inch of precipitation.

Garner, however, added “there’s a trade out there.”

Mendocino County may not be getting as much rain as Sonoma County, but wind conditions there will be much worse Wednesday.

Sustained winds are expected to reach 65 mph in Mendocino County. They’re expected to reach 30 mph in Sonoma County.

2:30 p.m.: Two sections of Highway 1 in Mendocino County blocked by downed trees

At least two sections of Highway 1 are closed in Mendocino County due to downed trees, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Just after 1 p.m., several fallen trees were reported at Iversen Point Road, about 1½ miles south of the community of Gallaway.

At 1:25 p.m., downed trees shut down the highway near Mountain View Road, 4 miles north of the town of Point Arena, according to the CHP.

A section of Mountain View also was closed about 5½ miles east of Highway 1.

There was no immediate word on when the closures would be cleared.

2 p.m.: Power outages continue along coast

More than 3,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers remain without power Wednesday afternoon following multiple weather-caused failures that took place in the morning in an area that extends from Manchester Beach State Park in Mendocino County to about Stewarts Point in Sonoma County.

Sea Ranch resident Laura Harwood said Wednesday morning that the lights flickered a few times in her home before she lost power completely.

Harwood, her husband and their dog Mo are “cozy and snug” for now, she said, adding that they have propane stoves they can light if they need more heat.

“We are hoping the power will come back on before too long,” Harwood said in an email.

PG&E does not have an estimated restoration time.

1:55 p.m.: Downed tree cleared from Highway 12 in Santa Rosa

Highway 12 is clear after a fallen tree blocked one of the eastbound lanes in Santa Rosa Wednesday morning.

The closure was reported about 9:30 a.m. but crews quickly removed the tree and opened the road by 10 a.m., Santa Rosa Fire Marshal and Division Chief Paul Lowenthal said.

As of 1:50 p.m., he said most storm activity was near the coast and there were no reports of major impacts to the city but he expected that to change as the hours passed.

1:10 p.m.: Russian River to flood at least twice

The Russian River in Guerneville is now forecast to peak almost 3 ½ feet above flood stage at midnight Thursday and again early Monday morning, as a second round of rain comes in over the weekend, according to the latest projections from the California Nevada River Forecast Center.

The 4 a.m. Monday crest is projected at 35.7 feet, just a few inches above the earlier crest of 35.4 feet, dropping down below flood stage for about 48 hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, according to the River Forecast Center.

Flood stage in Guerneville is 32 feet.

The projections are based on modeling and are subject to change when the storms pass through and the rain actually hits.

Either way, it appears there will be some flooding in lower river towns, as the river rises and spreads into lower elevation resorts, homes and businesses. Flooding of roads, including from local creeks, typically precedes river flooding.

The Russian River also is forecast to eclipse flood stage of 15 feet in Hopland on Thursday morning and again Sunday morning, falling below flood level between Thursday night and Saturday evening.

The river is projected to crest at 18.4 feet at 10 a.m. Thursday and 18.8 at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Flooding on that portion of the river typically closes Highway 175 east of Highway 101.

Also in Mendocino County, the Navarro River is on court to rise just above flood stage of 23 feet early Thursday morning before dropping down and rising steeply again on Sunday morning to as much as 29.7 feet – almost seven feet above flood level.

The river runs part of its length along Highway 128 near the Mendocino Coast, where the roadway is almost river level, contributing to frequent flooding during heavy rains.

12:40 p.m.: Road closures

Major sections of Highway 101 in Humboldt County, Highway 1 in Sonoma County and some smaller roads near the coast are closed due to multiple downed trees.

Highway 1 will be closed from Meyers Grade Road in Jenner to Timber Cove Road, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Marcus Hawkins.

Hawkins said there are too many trees for the firefighters to clean up, so CHP has decided to divert traffic for the time being.

Highway 101 is closed from Seawood Drive to Orick, according to a tweet from CalTrans District 1.

Additionally, Fort Ross Road and Timber Cove Road on the coast are closed, according to the County of Sonoma website.

There are no estimated times of reopening.

12:34 p.m.: State of emergency declared throughout California

Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency throughout California on Wednesday as a powerful storm struck the state, portending widescale flooding, falling trees, power failures and mudslides across a landscape already soaked through by recent storms.

It’s the first in a series of atmospheric rivers expected to hit the state over the next week or 10 days in what newly appointed state Emergency Services Director Nancy Ward said during a morning news briefing would be “one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California over the past five years.”

Emergency officials from several state departments warned residents around the state to stay alert and stay aware of changing conditions, be prepared for extended power failures, make a family emergency plans, check on vulnerable neighbors and follow orders from local and state emergency officials.

“If you get the word to evacuate, you need to evacuate,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources.

The current storm, which is expected to intensify late Wednesday, follows moisture-laden atmospheric rivers that passed through California Dec. 27 and New Year’s Eve but carries with it much more powerful winds, which Nemeth called “the primary impact” of this event.

That’s particularly true given the millions of trees that are weakened by drought and now rooted in saturated soil that can easily give way.

Nemeth said the storm’s impacts on the entire coastline, from Crescent City to Los Angeles, were especially concerning.

She also highlighted flood risks in Mendocino County along both the Russian River and the Navarro River, which reaches the Mendocino Coast south of Albion.

Acting CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares urged residents to stay off the roads if at all possible to avoid the prospect of falling trees and also roadway flooding and slippery roads.

Duryee urged those who must drive to ensure their windshield wipers and tire treads are in good condition and their tires fully inflated, and that their vehicles are fully fueled. Those driving in snow should be prepared for snow and ice, as well.

Tavares also suggested using an app called Caltrans QuickMap to monitor changing road conditions and new closures.

Nemeth said the state was working closely with federal partners, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service, to monitor the state’s system of reservoir and flood control system and believed there was sufficient capacity to absorb the incoming rainfall through weir releases and other strategies.

But she said there remained significant concerns about rural levees that were not required to meet the same standards as public systems.

12 p.m.: What it looks like on Piner Creek Trail

Editor Allison Gibson shares what it looks like on Piner Creek Trail in Santa Rosa.

11:45 a.m.: Cotati power outage – at the scene

A large tree crashed into some power lines in Cotati Wednesday morning, cutting off power to thousands of residents.

John Silverman, 59, was watching TV with his wife around 9 a.m. in their Cotati home when all of a sudden they heard a thud and their power went out.

“We’re gonna start a fire here,” he said, adding that they don’t have a generator.

Silverman and his wife knew the source of the crash was the tree down the street from them on East Railroad and Willow avenues that they’d seen leaning the previous day.

He said that a tree had fallen on Willow Avenue last week, narrowly missing power lines. They knew it was only a matter of time before this one went down too.

Silverman was the first one to call Pacific Gas and Electric Co.crews.

“They got here pretty quick,” he said.

About 60 PG&E customers are still without power in the Cotati area as of about 11:50 a.m. Power is expected to be restored by about 4:50 p.m.

Silverman had mixed feelings about the rain, happy to see moisture amid the drought, but weary of the issues that often comes with it, including flooding and power outages.

“When you need it, you want it,” he said. “And then when you get it, you don’t want it.”

11:15 a.m.: Vehicle collisions in Sonoma County; ‘weather-related to some degree’

About seven crashes were reported to California Highway Patrol Wednesday morning.

Most of them occurred between 6:30 and 7:40 a.m., when the rain was heavier and more people were on the roads, CHP Officer Jeff Engwall said.

One crash CHP responded to was reported about 7:30 a.m. around the Dry Creek Road onramp to southbound Highway 101. A blue Toyota pickup truck and Mercedes-Benz crashed into each other, damaging about 10 feet of guard rail and blocking the roadway.

The road was cleared before 8:30 a.m., Engwall said.

Engwall said this is a higher number of crashes than normally seen in at the start of the day.

“I think this is weather-related to some degree,” he said.

11:08 a.m.: Gov. Newsom signs emergency declaration

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a statewide emergency declaration due to what Office of Emergency Services Director Nancy Ward says is expected “to be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storm to touch down in California over the past five years.”

11 a.m. Caltrans shares photos of trees across a closed Highway 101 in Humboldt County

Caltrans crews working to clear fallen trees from Highway 101 in Humboldt County, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (Caltrans District 1/Twitter)
Caltrans crews working to clear fallen trees from Highway 101 in Humboldt County, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (Caltrans District 1/Twitter)
Caltrans crews working to clear fallen trees from Highway 101 in Humboldt County, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (Caltrans District 1/Twitter)
Caltrans crews working to clear fallen trees from Highway 101 in Humboldt County, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (Caltrans District 1/Twitter)

10:30 a.m.: Map shows where it usually floods in Sonoma County

This county of Sonoma map of the 100-year flood zone shows the areas likely to flood during a storm.

Areas include those near Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol and the Russian River, such as Guerneville.

10:39 a.m. Highway 101 in Humboldt County fully closed due to downed trees

In a tweet, Caltrans District 1 reported that Highway 101 in Humboldt County from Seawood Drive near Trinidad to Orick is fully closed due to “multiple downed trees.” There is no estimated time of reopening.

10 a.m.: Santa Rosa to open warming center

Santa Rosa will open a warming center Wednesday night as torrential rain and high winds are expected to hit the North Bay.

The city has partnered with Catholic Charities to transform the drop-in center at the organization’s new downtown Caritas Center into a warming center to provide temporary respite to people experiencing homelessness.

The center is set to open at 7 p.m. and remain open until at least 7 a.m. Thursday. The center is accessible from Morgan and Sixth streets.

Caritas Center can host up to 78 people indoors and an outdoor courtyard warmed by heaters can accommodate an additional 12 people.

People can stop at the center to warm up and charge their cellphones but no cots will be provided for sleeping. People seeking emergency shelter will be provided with a referral to other facilities.

9:40 a.m.: Power outages continue

More than 5,300 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers lost power in Cotati about 9 a.m., according to the PG&E outage center.

PG&E personnel determined the outage was due to the weather.

There is no estimated time that power will return.

About 60 customers around Sonoma Mountain Road, east of Rohnert Park, lost power about 9:20 a.m., also due to the weather.

As of 9:30 a.m., power was restored to the more than 380 customers between Forestville and Guerneville.

9:38 a.m.: Tree blocks Highway 12 in Santa Rosa

A fallen tree was blocking eastbound Highway 12 in Santa Rosa. PG&E crews helped clear it.

In a tweet about the closure, the Santa Rosa Fire Department urged people to avoid uncessary travel through Thursday.

9:30 a.m.: Portion of Highway 1 closed

California Highway Patrol has closed a portion of the road due to the downed trees in the Timber Cove area, CHP officer Jeff Engwall said.

A detour has been set up at Timber Cove Road.

9 a.m.: ‘They are falling down faster than people can call 911,’ downed trees in Timber Cove

Multiple trees have fallen Wednesday morning onto Highway 1 in the Timber Cove area, causing the road to be blocked in several areas, according to local firefighters.

As of 8:15 a.m., the Timber Cove Fire Protection District has seen about 20 trees fall, said fire chief Erich Lynn.

He guessed that many more had fallen during an eight-minute call with the Press Democrat.

Lynn said he witnessed five trees fall in the area within one minute. One of them fell onto and damaged a pickup truck. The driver was not injured.

“It is just starting,” he said, referring to the rain and wind. “It’s going to be wild.”

Lynn said because of power outages in the area, local firefighters are finding out about the downed trees through word of mouth by motorists passing them as they attempt to keep the roads clear.

“They are falling down faster than people can call 911,” he said.

Trees are actively falling in the area, so people planning to drive through the area today should rethink their route or cancel their plans, Lynn said.

“There’s trees down everywhere and we are just doing our best,” he said. “It’s best if people just avoid the area.”

8:40 a.m.: Power outages

More than 680 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers are without power in Sonoma County, according to the PG&E outage center.

More than 380 people are without power in between Forestville and Guerneville.

Further west, about 300 people are cut off from power around around Fort Ross State Historic Park and Salt Point State Park.

It is unknown when power will be returned to these areas.

7:45 a.m.: School closure in Annapolis

Horicon School in Annapolis is closed Wednesday, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education.

The road to the school is blocked by a fallen tree, said Eric Wittmershaus, Office of Education spokesperson.

There are multiple other trees down in the area near Horicon School and school officials are concerned that more trees may fall during the day, preventing them from releasing kids at the end of the day, Wittmershaus said.

7:40 a.m.: Track the storm live

Track the storm using the real-time radar map below:

5:45 a.m.: Coastal flood advisory for Thursday. High surf advisory issued for Thursday morning to Friday morning.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood advisory from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday for the North Bay interior valleys.

Weather service meteorologists expect some minor coastal flooding in lots, parks and roads, leading to some isolated road closures, according to the Watches, Warnings and Advisories web page.

The weather service also issued a high surf advisory from 7 a.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday for most of the Bay Area and Central Coast beaches.

Large breaking waves are expected to reach up to 30 feet, leading to dangerous swimming and surfing conditions and faster than normal wave run-up, according to a tweet from the weather service.

Check back for updates as they become available.

Staff Writers Alana Minkler, Paulina Pineda, Mary Callahan, Andrew Graham and Martin Espinoza contributed to this blog.

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

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