Significant flooding in central Healdsburg (w/video)
Healdsburg took the brunt of the storm that walloped Sonoma County on Thursday as a creek overflowed and sent water into more than two dozen downtown businesses.
Fast-rising Foss Creek invaded surface streets, including several main thoroughfares — Healdsburg Avenue and Grove Street — in some cases sending water a foot or so deep into stores and restaurants.
The flooding knocked out traffic lights, closed down the heart of town for hours, and submerged some cars unlucky enough to be parked in the wrong place, or whose driver tried to navigate too-high water.
In some cases, such as a Safeway parking lot that had been transformed into a lake, the somber scene of inundated cars was contrasted by kayakers casually paddling around the vehicles.
The storm dropped 5.9 inches of rain on Healdsburg during the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Healdsburg has experienced flooding before when big storms hit, but longtime residents say there hasn’t been anything like Thursday’s storm for decades.
“This was the worst I’ve seen in many years,” said Carla Howell, a Chamber of Commerce president and former mayor. “I would compare it to the ’96-’97 flood, when it was really bad then.”
Howell said Thursday night’s “Dine Around Healdsburg,” a charity benefit in which people enjoy a course at different dining spots, had to be canceled because several restaurants — including Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar and Chalkboard — were flood-damaged and couldn’t open.
Many businesses along a two-block stretch of Healdsburg Avenue north of the Plaza, from North Street to Piper Street, were flooded as the street took on the appearance of a creek in the morning light.
“It was moving fast. It looked exactly like a river out there. You couldn’t see the street at all,” is how Margie Hansen, an employee at Costeaux Bakery, described the scene that unfolded shortly after she arrived to open for breakfast.
Outside, in back of the bakery, “was a river, too,” she said.
Hansen and her co-workers watched the water rise to the seats on the front terrace chairs, then advance into the restaurant and then the kitchen.
“We started sweeping and scooping the water toward the drains,” she said.
Their actions and the ebbing waters enabled the bakery to open in time for lunch.
Even though many of the business owners along the street put out sandbags the night before in advance of the big storm, it didn’t keep them dry. Passing trucks and buses created wakes, sending waves of water lapping into stores before emergency workers closed the street to traffic.
“We had ankle-deep water in here,” said Steve Kerkish, owner of Dovetail Collection, a store featuring furniture and fine art pieces made of exotic hardwoods. He was cleaning up the remains of the water and mud with the help of a shop vac, and said it was too early to assess the damage to his merchandise.
On the same side of the block, Everywhere Hardwear clothing store, Toad Hollow wines and Chuck Foley Fine Leathers were just a few of the stores that reported water incursions.
Across the street, businesses also failed to stem the rising tide of floodwaters, including Frank and Ernie’s Bar, where four inches covered the floors.