Dozens of crashes due to wet roads around Sonoma County

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Light rain on Monday — the first for this new official rainy season — slicked up area roadways and led to a nonstop run of crashes throughout Sonoma County as drivers slid into trees, down embankments and spun across slippery asphalt.

Several spinouts and collisions along Highway 101 tangled the morning commute from Windsor to Petaluma. Later in the morning an overturned big rig trailer spilled gravel across River Road, blocking a stretch of the busy route for hours.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat counted 34 crashes from the start of the morning commute until noon — mainly due to unsafe speeds for wet roads. And the crashes kept coming as afternoon rain spritzes fell.

While some appeared dramatic, none involved major injuries, Sloat said. At least three people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

Rain following a long dry period lifts oil to the top of roadway surfaces, making the roads extremely slick. It happens multiple times a year and typically results in a day of collisions.

Sloat’s own morning commute along Highway 101 showed him “nobody is slowing down. Everybody is following too closely for the conditions.”

Sloat offered the usual warning given by the CHP: “You’ve got to slow down and give yourself extra space, especially in the first rain of the season.”

Santa Rosa’s share of first‑rain crashes included a driver who smashed through windows of a westside O’Reilly Auto Parts storefront and another who slid into a pole and hydrant west of Marlow and Guerneville roads, shearing off the hydrant and flooding the roadway. That driver ran from the crash, leaving behind a mangled Dodge Durango, said Santa Rosa police, who still are seeking the man.

The most common crash of the day seemed to involve drivers running into trees, according to CHP reports.

“It’s pretty typical for the first rain, especially when it comes during the commute on Monday morning,” said Santa Rosa fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque, who went to several of the day’s crashes.

The River Road crash happened at 11:10 a.m. The rig driver, pulling two trailers, apparently was going too fast for conditions as he headed into a curve west of Slusser Road, Sloat said. The rear trailer flipped to its side, spilling about 10 yards of gravel.

CHP closed River Road in the area for almost four hours, according to emergency reports.

In the 7:40 a.m. crash into the auto parts store, a woman turning on Sebastopol Road apparently lost traction on the wet roadway. She drove over a sidewalk and through landscaping before smashing into the large windows of the store. The store was open at the time, but no one was hurt, officials said.

The elevated, sharply curving loop of the Highway 12‑Highway 101 interchange in Santa Rosa is a regular spot for first‑rain spinouts. That reputation remained intact Monday with at least three crashes in the area, Sloat said.

At 8:30 a.m., a driver on the tight curve from northbound Highway 101 to eastbound Highway 12 lost control and plunged over the side of the highway. Her car overturned as it dropped 10 to 15 feet before landing down the embankment between the offramp and homes along South A Street. The driver wasn’t injured.

“That Highway 12 loop at 101, people regularly crash there in the rain because they take them too fast,” Sloat said.

In Petaluma, three vehicles collided at 7:05 a.m. on the highway near East Washington Street. Two people were taken by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

An 11:08 a.m. crash involved a pickup on its side in a ditch off Bodega Highway near Ferguson Road. The man driving lost control, went over an embankment and his pickup became wedged on its side up against a tree. Gold Ridge firefighters assisted the uninjured man out of the truck, Battalion Chief Darren DeCarli said.

Monday’s gray skies, cool temperatures and light rains offered a stark contrast to last week’s sparkling bright fall afternoons.

The first rains came on days 2 and 3 of the year’s new rainfall season, which started Saturday. The bit of inclement weather blew into the county Sunday, bringing a trace of rain to several areas and small amounts to others, including 0.15 inches to Santa Rosa and 0.32 to Rohnert Park, according to AccuWeather.

Monday morning many drivers needed wipers for steady sprinkles. By 4 p.m. Monday, an additional 0.12 inches had dropped on Santa Rosa, bringing its total for the new rainfall year to 0.27 inches.

Monday should be the coldest day of the week, with each day growing a little warmer, increasing to the 80s by week’s end, said Bob Benjamin, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

And there’s no rain expected in the next 10 days.

“This was an initial preview, or trailer, of things to come,” Benjamin said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@press democrat.com. On Twitter @rossmannreport.

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