Record-setting rainfall eases Monday in Sonoma County
A Sunday rain that felt biblical in nature after months of parching drought became quantifiable Monday, and the results were about as epic as you might imagine.
Central Santa Rosa saw 7.83 inches of rain Sunday. That not only shattered the city record for one-day rainfall on Oct. 24 (the former champion was 1962, with 4.67 inches), but it officially became the Santa Rosa record for any date. The previous mark was 5.66 inches on Feb. 26, 2019.
“It was definitely a strong event,” said Sean Miller, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office. “But what is really noteworthy is that it’s so early in the season. This is something that we’d usually see in the core of winter, in December and January.”
Other inch counts around Sonoma County included a drenching 14.26 inches registered in Venado, 10.78 in Glen Ellen, 9.64 in Forestville, 9.38 in Sebastopol and 9.19 in Rohnert Park. Higher elevations were generally soggier.
National Weather Service flood warnings for the county didn’t end until 6 p.m. Monday.
Surveying the Russian River from a spot in Healdsburg earlier that day, United States Geological Survey field office chief Andrew Watson said he was seeing water levels he hadn’t witnessed in a long time. He had just measured the flow of the river there at about 11,500 cubic feet per second, Watson said. At its peak around midnight the previous night, it topped 18,000. The 82-year average for Oct. 25 at that site is 286 cubic feet per second.
While the drenching barely made a dent in Northern California’s epic two-year drought, it did, for the time being, reverse the receding water levels at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, two of the county’s chief sources of water. Mendocino increased from about 12,800 acre feet to 16,000 acre feet, and Lake Sonoma added roughly 13,000 acre feet, bringing it to 118,396 acre feet. Despite the new inflows, both lakes are still far below their capacity.
Even as farmers, water officials and neighbors rejoiced at the weekend’s precipitation, the weather wreaked its share of havoc in the North Bay. Morning broke Monday to an obstacle course of impassable roads, downed trees and swollen creeks.
The problems included a tree blocking Sonoma Mountain Road between Sonoma Ridge Zachary Lane; another that came down across Valley Ford Franklin School Road, south of Estero Road; and a vehicle stranded in standing water on Mark West Station Road at Starr Road.
Cloverdale City Park will be closed until Wednesday because of its own fallen tree.
Meanwhile, the wicked winds that swept the area also downed an 80-foot eucalyptus tree on the property of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a nonprofit southwest of Rohnert Park, crushing a chain-link enclosure for foxes.
“It was a rehabilitation enclosure and the foxes weren’t in there, because they were released into the wild already,” executive director Doris Duncan said.
Wind gust speeds in Sonoma County peaked in the high 50s and 60s during the storm, Miller said. A 65-mph gust was logged west of Cloverdale, 57 mph at Coleman Valley Road. Mount St. Helena was blasted with at least one 70-mph gust.
A high surf warning remains in place down the whole Bay Area coast. The storm has prompted a long period swell, meteorologists said, which will continue to cause large breaking waves of 20-30 feet through Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Responding to local flooding and/or power outages, and least eight Sonoma County school districts closed their campuses Monday. The affected districts were Bennett Valley Union, Guerneville, Sebastopol Union, Forestville Union, Montgomery Elementary, Harmony Union, Twin Hills Union and Reach Charter School.
Residents and businesses lost electricity in areas all over the county.
At the peak of the disruptions Sunday, a PG&E spokeswoman said, about 25,000 of the utility’s customers were without power in Sonoma County. By late afternoon, PG&E had restored electricity to all but about 6,800 accounts. Then a couple other outages struck, and the number bounced back up to 8,300.