Flood waters cut off Russian River residents
Rising flood waters turned Guerneville and Monte Rio into an island early Wednesday, cutting off access to the Russian River area as the swollen river continued to rise, swamping more than 50 spots along county roads and highways.
Bringing what could be the worst flooding since 1977 to a region historically known for serious flooding, the storm’s impact continued to be widespread, including the closure of Highway 37, a major commute route connecting Sonoma, Marin and Solano counties. Officials announced that was closed in Novato due to flooding, according to the CHP. This is the second closure of the key highway this month from rising storm water.
Falling trees and mudslides were ongoing issues all night, fire officials said, including some homes badly damaged from the impact. The other problem involved drivers continued to try to get through flooded roads and needing to be rescued.
With Guerneville and Monte Rio isolated, other west county routes also were under water. The only route open to Sebastopol and Forestville is Highway 116 from Cotati, all other local roadways and highways were blocked by water, officials said.
“The problem right now is not homes being flooded out as it is the access,” said Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum.
The U.S. Postal Service announced that mail intended for residents of Camp Meeker, Cazadero, Duncans Mills, Guerneville, Jenner, Monte Rio and Villa Grande would be held in Petaluma due to the flooding. Letters and parcels sent to people living in those flood-affected areas will be held at the USPS facility at 1150 N. McDowell Boulevard.
Mail meant for people in west Marin County communities of Inverness, Marshall and Olema will be stored at the Pt. Reyes Post Office at 11260 Highway 1, the USPS said.
Fifteen school districts and three individual schools were closed Wednesday due to flooding and other problems posed by the rain from this week’s storm, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education.
The Horicon, Sebastopol Union, West Sonoma County Union, and Twin Hills districts joined 11 other districts who previously planned to close their campuses. The REACH and Village charter schools decided not to open, and the Rancho Cotate High School in the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District was closed due to a power outage
The Alexander Valley Union, Cloverdale Unified, Forestville Union, Guerneville, Geyserville Unified, Healdsburg Unified, Montgomery Elementary, Oak Grove Union and West Side Union districts were closed as planned, and the Harmony Union and Monte Rio districts also called off school Wednesday after dismissing students at noon Tuesday.
Dawn Wednesday illuminated the situation in Guerneville with several streets flooded and cars submerged. The river was about 41 feet at 7 a.m. and rising to an expected 46 feet by Wednesday night, so the flooding will increase for hours before the river recedes Thursday.
“It’s awful out here. We’re an island,” said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman.
More trees fell, some into homes, and hillsides slid throughout Tuesday night, but firefighters also were busy rescuing drivers from flooded roadways and getting people out of their homes from the approaching water.
“We took 17 people out of cars and houses during the night. Too many people are driving into water,” Baxman said.
Heavy rains Tuesday night tapered off early Wednesday, bringing a break from the earlier deluge. But roadways continued to slip under water and emergency dispatchers were inundated with calls about new roads too deep to traverse.
West county routes closed included River Road in multiple areas including Mirabel Road in Forestville and near Duncan’s Mills, cutting off the river communities to the east and west. Bohemian Highway, another route into Monte Rio and the river area, is closed in two spots due to mudslides.
Connections from west Santa Rosa to Sebastopol and Forestville also disappeared early Wednesday as Occidental Road is closed between Sanford and High School roads and Highway 12 is closed near the east entrance to Sebastopol. Guerneville Road also closed between Olivet and Frei roads as the Laguna de Santa Rosa spread over the roadway.
The only route still into or out of Sebastopol and Forestville available Wednesday morning was Highway 116 connecting to Cotati and Highway 101.
First responders in the river area are using boats and high-water military trucks to get through deep water for rescues. The vehicles are stationed in Guerneville, Monte Rio and Forestville.