Sonoma County flooding: Town-by-town summary of storm effects

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Historic rainfall hit Santa Rosa. Healdsburg declared a state of emergency after its wastewater treatment plant flooded. Graton firefighters beat their own record for most water rescues in a 24-hour period. Here’s a breakdown of how major Sonoma County cities and towns were affected by the two-day storm and historic flood.

Santa Rosa: The city Tuesday recorded the heaviest one-day rainfall, 5.66 inches, since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1902. That surpassed the previous single-day record of 5.23 inches on Dec. 19, 1981.

The rainfall didn’t cause too many problems in the city, though, Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Ken Sebastiani said. He said some outlying areas like Willowside, Sanford and Todd Road saw flooding but the city itself did not.

“The infrastructure within Santa Rosa is pretty solid to get water out, so we didn’t have a lot of water-related issues,” Sebastiani said, though he did note there were “some pretty good fender-benders on the freeway.”

Graton: Graton firefighters beat their own record for most water rescues, 10, in the 24 hours from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning.

Most of the rescues occurred on Green Valley, Graton and Sanford roads and Railroad Avenue, near Atascadero Creek, which spilled over its banks.

The first rescue was also the most dangerous, Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard said. He said a man’s Toyota Prius floated into a ditch when the driver tried to cross deep water on Graton Road. When firefighters arrived, the man was holding onto his vehicle, trying not to be swept away.

Reached Wednesday evening, Bullard said there had been no further rescues since early Wednesday morning, and firefighters were taking a much-needed break before heading back out. The main issue in Graton Wednesday night, he said, was a mudslide on Occidental Road near Coffee Lane, though the road was still passable.

Forestville: Like Graton, Forestville was completely inaccessible Wednesday night, said deputy incident commander Shepley Schroth-Cary. Forestville residents who remained in the city had to rely on boats or National Guard high-water vehicles to ferry them out, he said.

“If they’re stuck, they’re stuck, and they’re requiring National Guard trucks or boats to go in and get them out,” he said. “People who didn’t heed the evacuation order or got into a predicament, that’s basically how we’ve spent our day, is getting those people out.”

About 250 customers in the Forestville area lost gas service Wednesday, PG&E said. It was not expected to be turned back on Wednesday night, and a PG&E spokeswoman cautioned residents against trying to turn gas back on themselves.

Sebastopol: Major flooding closed almost all the roads leaving Sebastopol Tuesday night, stretching into Wednesday and causing major traffic jams on Highway 116 South, the only way in or out of the city. It remained Sebastopol’s only access route Wednesday night, with none of the closed roads reopened.

Floodwater inundated the city, rising halfway up the gas pumps at a Chevron station on the east side of town. The Barlow community market also was flooded, causing heavy damage to businesses in the area. An emergency shelter established at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts took in dozens of displaced residents Wednesday.

Petaluma: Petaluma Police Department said flooding stranded residents of the Leisure Lake Village Mobile Park, off Highway 101 just north of Old Redwood Highway.

The floodwater receded throughout the day Wednesday, with all roads reopened by around 5 p.m., Petaluma Fire Battalion Chief Mike Medeiros said. “Things wound down, seems like, from about eight or nine on,” he said. No major injuries were reported due to the flooding.

Guerneville: Floodwaters isolated Guerneville and neighboring Monte Rio Tuesday. Access was restricted through Wednesday night, with all roads into and out of the towns cut off by Russian River floodwater. Only emergency vehicles, including National Guard high-water vehicles, were able to pass through the flooded roads, according to the deputy incident commander Shepley Schroth-Cary.

The Russian river hit 42 feet at 7 a.m. Wednesday, a full 10 feet above its flood stage of 32 feet, and continued rising long after rains had stopped. It was projected to crest at 45.5 feet at 11 p.m. Wednesday, rising a half foot higher than it did during the historic flood in 1997, and then slowly recede over the next 24 hours.

Many Guerneville residents stayed put despite a mandatory evacuation order issued by Sonoma County Tuesday afternoon, finding themselves Wednesday disconnected from the rest of the county and relying on residents with kayaks and canoes to ferry them to safety. Luckily, there were no flood-related deaths or serious injuries reported Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sonoma: High winds knocked a mature cedar tree into a home on Castle Road in Northeast Sonoma early Wednesday morning.

David Berglund, 79, and Judy Altura, 74, told the Sonoma Index-Tribune the tree fell into their house around 2:30 a.m. The crash startled the couple awake to find three tree limbs had punched through their living room roof, opening holes that allowed the pouring rain to fall through.

It was the couple’s third natural disaster: they lived through the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, and their home suffered major smoke damage in the 2017 North Bay wildfires. They told the Index-Tribune they were relatively unperturbed by the most recent calamity, going back to bed after the tree fell through their roof.

“Life is good here in Sonoma, so you gotta roll with it,” Altura told the paper.

Schellville: Flooding forced the evacuation of the Schell-Vista fire station Tuesday, with firefighters returning late in the day.

“We had to evacuate the station just so we don’t have to keep driving through that deep water,” Schell-Vista Fire Chief Ray Mulas said.

The flooding also closed major roads in Schellville, including the intersection of Broadway and Highway 121. Mulas said his team had to rescue multiple drivers caught in floodwater, including one he referred to as “a case of stupidity,” where a woman drove onto a dirt road in order to inspect a levee, escaping with her life but losing her truck.

The Sea Ranch: Most of the North Coast near The Sea Ranch was without power overnight Tuesday until Wednesday morning, Cal Fire Capt. Shelley Spear said. The Cal Fire station at The Sea Ranch also lost power overnight, she said. A mudslide cut off Annapolis Road from emergency responders Tuesday night, but there weren’t any medical calls and the road reopened Wednesday morning, she said.

Most of Cal Fire’s calls dealt with mudslides and trees down, Spear said. Highway 1 remained open, but with standing water in The Sea Ranch area.

“No-one’s crashed, which I’m surprised, because there’s so much potential for hydroplaning on Highway 1,” Spear said.

Healdsburg: The city issued an emergency declaration Wednesday, after floodwater spilled into the wastewater treatment facility. The city was not clear Wednesday on the extent of damage to the facility, but 8 inches of water had flooded the operations building and 3 feet came into an office building. Floodwater was blocking access to the facility Wednesday.

Operations at the treatment plant were not , and was not expected to overflow until late Thursday. The city hoped to access the treatment plant and do the necessary repairs once the water started to recede Thursday morning.

The city itself wasn’t hit too hard by the storm, said Michael Jacobs, a firefighter with the Healdsburg Fire Department.

“Just two or three garages got a couple inches of water, but nothing too crazy,” Jacobs said. He credited the city’s efforts to keep Foss Creek free of brush and debris with preventing major flooding in the city.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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