Rainfall surpasses Sonoma County average, with mix of sun and showers on way

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If it feels to you like Sonoma County has weathered an especially wet winter, you’re right.

Since October, Santa Rosa has had more than twice the amount of rainfall — 35.58 inches — as it did last year at this time. And over the same period the county has seen 60 days of rain, compared to 35 last year.

Last week’s deluge hammered home the pattern, dumping three days’ worth of rain on the region, swelling the Russian River to its highest level since 1995, causing widespread flooding and more than $155 million in damage to homes, businesses and roads countywide.

“It’s been a long winter. We really need sunshine,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose west county district bore the brunt of last week’s flooding.

Santa Rosa’s current rainfall total exceeds the city’s annual average of 32 inches. And more continues to fall.

The latest storm to strike the region entered and exited quickly, with the main front sweeping in Tuesday evening and moving out before dawn Wednesday, dropping about 4 inches of rain in the coastal hills and half as much inland, with over an inch recorded in Santa Rosa.

The drenching led to a few road closures, including low‑lying Valley Ford Road near Highway 1 and Rohnert Park Expressway near Stony Point Road. Toppled trees blocked roadways, with one hit the roof of a Monte Rio home, but damage appeared minimal.

The storm came as thousands continued to deal with the aftermath and cleanup of last week’s major flood, affecting more than 3,000 homes and businesses.

The latest rainfall added to the already difficult cleanup, raising anxiety levels for many, Hopkins said.

“Everyone is living in fear of another storm,” she said.

Tuesday night’s rain also was a sharp reminder the region remains firmly in storm season.

The month of March often brings significant rainfall to Sonoma County, which has helped in prior dry years. That was the case last year when a late‑March storm brought more than 6 inches of rain to the Charles M. Schulz‑Sonoma County Airport and higher amounts to the coastal hills.

That turned out to be the last major storm of the year, a difference maker after relatively sparse rainfall last January and February.

The bonus is that local reservoirs are full, with water releases timed around recent storms and plenty of flood control room left in case more is coming, said Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

“The rains have tested our ability to efficiently manage reservoir releases with the Army Corps of Engineers and you won’t hear us saying the ‘D’ word any time soon, Sherwood said, referring to drought. “We are focused now on flood recovery with our community.”

With spring officially just two weeks away, plenty of people are wishing for warmer, clearer weather. Sherwood is among them. His family lost their Larkfield home in the Tubbs fire in 2017.

As with others, the wet winter is hindering their rebuild progress.

“The rain can go away now,” he said, speaking as a citizen.

For now, it appears drier weather is coming.

The forecast called for small amounts of rain Wednesday night in Santa Rosa, with thunderstorms bringing brief downpours. Thursday’s outlook called for a mix of cloudy and sunny skies to last through Friday. Showers could return Saturday and Sunday but it’s a slight chance.

Looking into next week, the dry weather should continue at least through Wednesday, with high temperatures of nearly 60 degrees.

“Long range is looking better,” said Scott Rowe, National Weather Service meteorologist.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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