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