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Storm causes destruction around Sonoma County


Toppled trees, slick roads and thousands of customers left without power Friday marked the second round of a two-part storm that first hit the area on Wednesday.

The storm dropped less than one inch of rain in most areas since Thursday and is expected to sputter out into just showers Saturday.

A huge eucalyptus tree crashed through a Penngrove cabin early Friday, obliterating much of the residence but missing tenant Tom Degerstrom by mere feet.

"I heard the big eucalyptus tree crack. A few seconds later it hit the cabin. It sounded like an explosion," said Degerstrom, a police corporal with the city of Napa.

The tree smashed through the living room and entry area, destroying the roof and ripping down walls as it hit the ground.

To get out, Degerstrom crawled through the thicket of branches and leaves. "I feel blessed because I didn't get hurt," he said.

It was the first of two large eucalyptus trees to fall into homes early Friday.

Just before the Penngrove tree dropped, a eucalyptus fell up against a home on Santa Rosa's Temple Avenue, damaging the roof and knocking the home askew. A resident inside wasn't hurt, said Santa Rosa fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque.

The return of rain and winds was enough to knock out power to 14,000 PG&E customers in Sonoma County.

They lost power Friday morning when a tree fell into a high-power cable west of Fulton, said PG&E's Paul Moreno.

The outage stretched throughout the Russian River region to Bodega Bay and up the coast to Mendocino County. Many were out of power for about three hours.

It was the largest power outage throughout the greater Bay Area.

Meanwhile, other outages around Sonoma County cropped up involving about 450 customers.

Those included about 100 customers in the rural Calistoga Road area northeast of Santa Rosa, according to Moreno, a PG&E spokesman. Power was restored Friday.

About 6,100 customers were without power beginning at 8:50 p.m. in two areas in the city of Sonoma. An additional 245 customers lost power in the Proctor Terrace neighborhood in Santa Rosa at about 6:30 p.m.

The storm swept into the North Bay late Thursday night. Forecasts included periodic showers into Saturday morning with a chance for a few small storms next week.

Rainfall amounts overnight into late Friday fell short of an inch around most of the county.

As of 6 p.m., totals ranged from about a quarter-inch in one area of Santa Rosa to almost one inch in Monte Rio. Rohnert Park had .78 inches, Cloverdale .58, Windsor .45 and Sebastopol had .85, according to local weather watchers reporting to the National Weather Service.

The storm's strength was focused more to the south, where it caused low-level flooding and left standing water on roads, strangling stretches of the morning commute. In Southern California it forced evacuations in areas prone to mudslides following recent fires.

Sonoma County's huge power outage struck just after 9 a.m. It included almost 11,800 customers in the greater Forestville, Guerneville and Monte Rio communities, 1,717 in the Bodega Bay, Salmon Creek area, 634 Fort Ross area customers and 227 in the Annapolis and Sea Ranch communities.

Within an hour, about 2,600 coastal customers had power again when crews rerouted power lines around the problem, Moreno said.

The outage occurred along a 60,000-volt line connecting power from Fulton to Monte Rio. About eight miles west of Fulton crews found a tree into the line.

The outage was repaired by early afternoon, Moreno said.

In southwest Napa, about 5,700 PG&E customers went dark at about 3:40 a.m. Friday. The outages were fixed by midafternoon, Moreno said.

Fallen trees briefly closed two stretches of Highway 1, the first near Fisk Mill Cove on the northern coast, which was cleared early Friday morning. At Fallon Two Rock Road, a downed tree closed the highway at 6:15 p.m. Both lanes were cleared just after 9 p.m.

At about 6:30 a.m. a large downed tree blocked Bailhache Avenue near Toyon Drive in Healdsburg. Crews had cut up much of the tree and one lane was open by about 8 a.m., said CHP Officer Jon Sloat.

Several minor storm-related car crashes occurred Friday.

Flooded areas included Valley Ford Road at Tomales Road and along a construction zone of northbound Highway 101 near Airport Boulevard.

The Penngrove cabin crushed by the eucalyptus tree was built about 100 years ago.

Degerstrom is renting the place with his wife, Terry, who wasn't home Friday as she was back in Minnesota briefly. She was due to return within days, accompanied by a family of friends who'd planned to stay with the couple for a California vacation.

Where the family would have been sleeping was where the tree crushed the home. "The people downstairs would have been squished flat," said Degerstrom.

The only part of the home not obviously damaged was a small bedroom loft where Degerstrom had been in bed, awake and nervously listening to the sound of the wind.

Degerstrom estimated the tree had been about 80?feet tall. More than half the fallen tree stretched beyond the home, where it also smashed the man's 2012 Toyota Yarris and caused minor damage to neighboring property.

Degerstrom had help Friday from a handful of close friends, including three of his Marine Corps buddies. They carried out furniture, clothing and whatever they could salvage.

The marines had come from Dixon, Vacaville and Napa.

"It is what we do," said Greg Gibson of Napa.

(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@prsesdemocrat.com.)