GUERNEVILLE (CBS SF) – While torrential rains that have pounded the North Bay have subsided, the flooded Russian Rivers left parts of several communities in Sonoma County submerged under water Wednesday evening.
Along the Russian River in Sonoma County, officials said the towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio were completely isolated, as all roads leading to the communities were flooded. At around 10 p.m., the river crested at 45.31 feet, 13 feet over flood stage of 32 feet.
3,600 people are under evacuation orders from two dozen communities along the river, stretching from Jenner to Wilson Grove.
The most significant damage was in Guerneville, where water from the Russian River has flooded dozens of houses, turning roads into streams and making boats the only possible mode of transportation.
“The current situation in Guerneville, we have deputies there helping people,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick. “Evacuation time has passed. We cant evacuate any more [residents] because the water has risen and the roads are impassable.”
“Looks like it’s going to let up for a couple days, then another system is coming,” said one Forestville resident of the weather. “Hopefully it won’t be that bad.”
This had been a long day for the riverside community just outside of Guerneville.
“This is one of the many sections of Trenton Road, this is a very low spot, and it’s one of the first places that floods,” explained Craig Cochrane, who, with his wave Jane, was paddling over the submerged portion of the community.
“Many of the houses, due to the flooding, have been raised, sometimes two full stories to be above the largest floods.”
At around 12:30 p.m., a CHP helicopter landed on Main Street in Guerneville so officers could fly a woman having a serious medical issue out of the flooded area.
“Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like this in the 30 years that I’ve been living around this area,” said Sonoma County resident Adalfo Membrila. “This is incredible, a lot of rain, a lot of water, a lot of flooding.”
Across western Sonoma County, the water just kept rising Wednesday. And that left just about everyone here trying to make their way around it.
“Came through this direction on the way to work in the road closed right after me,” said one local.
And it wasn’t just low-lying areas. If you made your way into the hills, it was a different kind of road block. Signs of the storm aftermath could be seen with slides and fallen trees found in nearly every direction.
KPIX found one of those slides on Mays Canyon Road, where neighbors were checking out the damage when all of a sudden it started to give way again.
“Yeah I’ve never seen it slide,” one neighbor said. “I’ve been here since ’98, I’ve never seen this kind of thing like this on Mays Canyon Road.”
Redwood Road in Napa County was closed Wednesday evening because of a major landslide, Napa County emergency officials said.
As of 6:59 p.m. the road was closed in the 3500 block, about a half mile south of Mt. Veeder Road, because of the slide.
County emergency officials said the road is closed indefinitely.
Over in the town of Rio Nido along the Russian River, entire neighborhoods could be seen submerged under the murky floodwater.
Near Sebastopol, flood waters have swamped other Sonoma County neighborhoods.
Highway 12, the road that connects the town to Santa Rosa and the 101, was underwater and been closed all day.
Crews were spending their day rescuing stubborn residents who refused to leave their homes. One man, who refused to evacuate until he was surrounded by water was suffering from hypothermia by the time firefighters reached him.
“We’re getting ready to go into Flynn Street. There’s someone trapped in their house,” said Steve Thibodeau with the Sebastopol Fire Department. “They just don’t want to leave, and we can’t force them to leave. But once the water gets into their houses, they’re going to have to leave.”
“They just think they can stay in their houses and water is kind of a slow death and it just keeps coming up,” he said.
15 people were pulled out by boat, others on the backs of their rescuers.
The total number of evacuees kept rising as the river did.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa wetland complex seemed to swallow Sebastopol whole. Cars and homes are underwater while streets were crowded with kayakers.
Sebastopol resident Christina Mendieta and her two children had to be rescued after trying to stay in their home a little too long.
“Never have I seen it like this. It’s scary,” said Mendieta. “I thought it would rise a bit and we’d be fine.”
“We’ve done all we can do. We have sandbags and everything is up off the floor,” said Melissa Minton, the general manager at the Community Market, even as the business was taking on water.
Sebastopol has been through floods like this in ’86 and ’95, but Minton has only been a resident for five years. The steady march of the rising river caught her off guard.
“We don’t have power. We’re going to lose all our perishable items,” said Minton. “What’s insurance going to do? How long is it going to take? When can we open again for business?”
The rapidly rising water forced the guests at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville to evacuate Wednesday morning. Stranded guests told KPIX about their struggle to get to safety.
Guests were forced to leave the inn through a window and above a giant, newly-formed pond.
Nina Sheehan and her husband Patrick were in Sonoma County visiting one of their daughters. They had planned to head to San Francisco Wednesday anyway, but with danger from the rising Russian River increasing by the minute, they knew they had to leave sooner than planned.
“These things are fast changing and you do need to pay attention,” said Nina Sheehan.
“This is the third time we’ve been evacuated over the last three or four months in different parts of California, but that’s life,” added her husband Patrick.
All the guests at the Farmhouse Inn had to be evacuated.
The owners of the inn told KPIX they called rideshare companies to pick people up.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has declared a local emergency caused by heavy rain and flooding that forced evacuations from the Russian River area.
The declaration asks Gov. Gavin Newsom to proclaim a state of emergency that would waive regulations that could hinder response and recovery efforts and provide assistance and relief programs for damage caused by this year’s storms and flooding.
County officials estimate 3,600 residents were included in the evacuation notices issued at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
KPIX 5 reporter Jackie Ward and her photographer attempted to report from Guerneville early Wednesday morning, but were unable to reach the town due to the flooding.
The CHP Air Ops helicopter assisted in the Wednesday rescue of at least two people trapped by flood waters.
Emergency crews said a 59-year-old man who spent the night in the water needed to be rescued. He is expected to be okay.
The river at Guerneville is expected to crest at 46 feet Wednesday night, which would make it the sixth highest on record and the highest the river has been since 1997. According to the National Weather Service, the river is not expected to be below the flood stage of 32 feet until Friday.
PG&E reported that as of early Wednesday evening, just over 5,000 customers were still without electricity, with about 4,400 of them in Sonoma County due to flooding and mudslides, utility spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.
Thousands of people in Sonoma County remained under evacuation orders. Multiple shelters have been set up, including the Sepastopol Center for the Arts, Sonoma County Fairgrounds Grace Pavilion, Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building and the Healdsburg Community Center.
Here are the communities covered by the order:
- Guernewood Park
- Northwood Lodge
- Rio Dell
- Duncans Mills
- El Bonita
- Mirabel Heights
- Mirabel Park
- Monte Rio
- Summerhome Park
- Vacation Beach
- Wilson Grove
While nearly 4,000 people are under evacuation order, Sonoma County Sheriff spokesperson Sgt. Spencer Crum told The Associated Press that he estimates only half had actually left their homes.
Crum said deputies went door to door before the Russian River broke its banks late Tuesday to advise people to leave.
The spokesperson said Wednesday that those who decided to stay stocked up on food and drinking water.
Crum said sheriff’s deputies in a boating team are patrolling the flooded areas to prevent looting.
He says four National Guard high-water rescue vehicles are ready to be used if needed.
Deputies have also helped people get out of cars stuck in floodwaters.
Meanwhile, the Napa River also overflowed its banks late Tuesday night. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the river at Napa has reached 26.38 feet, above the flood stage of 25 feet. The river was expected to crest at 26.6 feet later in the day.
The weather service earlier Wednesday canceled a flood warning for the Napa River near St. Helena while keeping it in effect for the Napa River near Napa.
Parts of West Marin County were also flooded, with the Lagunitas Creek nearly rising to the bridge at Point Reyes Station. The water filled yards and flowed underneath homes. The Nicaso Reservoir also went over its spillway.
The North Bay received the brunt of the atmospheric river storm that passed through the Bay Area this week, with some areas receiving nearly two feet of precipitation. Venado, in northern Sonoma County, received 20.48 inches of rain over a 48 hour span. In Napa County, the wettest location was near Yountville, where over 12 inches of rain was recorded. Marin County’s wettest location during the storm was San Anselmo, where 8.17 inches of rain fell.
Other North Bay locations that received significant rainfall include Lake Sonoma (10.82 inches), Angwin (10.28 inches) and Santa Rosa (8.73 inches).
Flooding and downed trees have closed a number of roadways across the Bay Area, as well.
Both directions of state Highway 37 in unincorporated Marin County between U.S. Highway 101 and Atherton Avenue and state Highway 12 near Sebastopol in Sonoma County are closed due to flooding, according to the California Highway Patrol.
In Napa, the Silverado Trail south of Saint Helena is also closed by a fallen tree and a mudslide and fallen trees closed Moscow Road about a mile west of the Bohemian Highway near the unincorporated community of Monte Rio, which has also experienced flooding, according to Sonoma County sheriff’s officials.
Farther south, a downed tree closed both directions of Walnut Creek’s busy Ygnacio Valley Road early Wednesday morning.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.