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Rain causes flooding, downed trees in county

This giant oak tree fell next to Skillman Lane on Tuesday, April 1.

John O'Hara/For the Argus-Courier
Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:19 a.m.

At times Monday it rained hard. Enough that windshield wipers had to be set on rapid, Little League games were canceled, some roads flooded in Healdsburg, Sonoma and Cotati, trees came down in places and in the hills where the most rain fell, landslides shut roads.

“It's trying real hard to be one of those days,” Sonoma County's road maintenance division manager, Rob Silva, said in an email to county officials.

After crews Monday took away 200 yards of debris and reopened a stretch of Stewarts Point Skaggs Spring Road that had been narrowed to one lane by a Saturday slide, a second slide, seven miles away, toppled trees and power lines and partially blocked the road, three miles from Highway 1.

Crews were to work through the night and the road was expected to be fully open today, Silva said.

That was near Annapolis, which received about 1.50 inches of rain Monday, Silva said.

In Petaluma, .80 of an inch fell; in Rio Nido, .95; in Bodega, .55 inches. In Cazadero, perennially the wettest spot in Sonoma County, 1.27 inches fell. Cloverdale came close to that, with 1.24 inches falling.

Further north, 1 inch fell in Ukiah; .85 of an inch dropped in Fort Bragg; and Boonville got 1.02 inches.

In Santa Rosa, .53 of an inch of rain fell over the weekend and another .66 of an inch came down Monday. That brought the month's total in the city to 2.38 inches, nearly half the annual average of 4.53 inches for March.

The drought persists. But recent rains have buoyed the situation a bit.

Lake Sonoma, which got 1.02 inches of rain Monday, is at 74 percent of capacity, helped also by its size and a large watershed, said Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency. That's up from 67 percent at the end of February.

Smaller Lake Mendocino, which has less of a watershed, and therefore less run-off, is at about 48 percent capacity, up from 41 percent a month ago.

“The trend is improving and, because the soil is so saturated, you're looking at a lot of run-off with these storms into the reservoirs,” Sherwood said.

In the fields, “With the drought, any rain is good rain,” said Mark Houser, vineyard manager for Hoot Owl Creek and Alexander Valley Vineyards.

“When the vines are starting to bud out you really like to have a good soil profile full of water, which is what we've had because of these rains,” he said.

Crews are ready to move out quickly once the rain stops; they have a 72-hour window to deal with the threat of mildew, Houser said.

What concerns him most, Houser said, is what can follow the rain: “As I look at the weather channels, what I see is when these storms come through and then stop, there's cold storms from the north and you've got to watch your frost protection.”

Sebastopol dairy rancher Dominic Carinalli called the rains “excellent” and said they have helped recover what six weeks ago was a dire situation for his hay crop.

“I think we're going to be pretty close to our normal,” he said.

But the Central Valley, where most of the hay Carinalli depends on to feed his cows is grown, depends on runoff from the Sierra Nevada. And there the longer-term prospects remain far less certain.

“Our my big concern is this summer, where we're going to get the hay and what the cost is going to be,” Carinalli said. “You've got to feed these cows all year round.”

Still, a cold storm system moved in Monday that was predicted to drop up to a foot of snow in the Sierras this week.

A weaker storm is expected to hit Thursday, taper off through Friday, and give way to sun and temperatures in the 70's by Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

This story includes information from The Associated Press and Press Democrat News Researcher Janet Balicki. You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

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