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Storm closes roads, cuts power around Sonoma County (w/video)

A truck drives through flood waters crossing a section of Mark West Station Road, west of the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Windsor on Feb. 8, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 9:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 at 7:41 a.m.

The weekend's wet weather so welcomed by Sonoma County water supply managers also wreaked havoc, with car crashes, downed trees, power outages and even a dramatic creek rescue Sunday.

More than 15 inches of inches of rain fell in Cazadero, the wettest spot in the county, since the storm moved in Friday, according to Steve Wistar, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.

Guerneville received 13.89 inches, Sonoma got 12.29, Santa Rosa 7.87, and 4.45 inches fell on Petaluma, Wistar said.

Except for a possible stray shower Monday morning, no rain was expected before Thursday, Wistar said.

Despite the drenching, the rain was not nearly enough to end this winter's drought. Normally, about 23.5 inches would have fallen by this point in the rain year, which begins July 1, according to the National Weather Service. About 9.16 inches have fallen this year.

Even so, the rapid increase in flow level on the Russian River was exciting to witness, Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said.

"We went from 40 cubic feet per second feet Friday to a little over 100 on Saturday to now over 10,000," Sherwood said Sunday evening, citing flow rates at Healdsburg. "It's crazy."

The Russian River was expected to have crested at 8.7 feet around 11 a.m. Sunday at Healdsburg, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center. That's still well shy of flood stage of 23 feet.

Further downstream, the river was expected to crest at Guerneville around 11 p.m. Sunday at just under 19 feet, also well below its flood stage of 32 feet, the center said.

Projections show the river level dropping steadily over the next several days as the rain tapers off, but remaining significantly higher than previous weeks.

The high water levels caught two Santa Rosa men off guard Sunday afternoon when they became stranded on an island of debris in the middle of Santa Rosa Creek and had to be rescued by firefighters.

Another man who tried to drive across Atascadero Creek near Graton got trapped when three to four feet of fast-moving water pushed his vehicle. Graton firefighters rescued the man sometime after 10 p.m., according to dispatchers.

Downed trees, flooding and landslides closed many roads Saturday afternoon, but several were reopened Sunday. Others such as Rohnert Park Expressway and Mark West Station Road remained flooded and wouldn't improve until river levels dropped, said Rob Silva, the county road department operations manager.

There were literally dozens of car crashes and spinouts over the weekend, Santa Rosa police Sgt. John Kregan said. "It basically comes down to driving too fast for the wet conditions," Kregan said.

There were several locations around Santa Rosa where several inches of standing water made driving treacherous, but no roads were closed Sunday, Kregan said.

Power outages affected up to 5,000 people at a time during the weekend, including in Sebastopol, Forestville, Guerneville and Santa Rosa, Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman JD Guidi said.

"The North Bay was the most heavily impacted area from this storm," Guidi said.

But as of Sunday evening, only 36 people in the county remained without power, he said.

Most of the city of Ukiah lost power for a couple hours Sunday afternoon, closing several businesses for the day. But dispatchers said the power was restored by about 4 p.m.

At one Santa Rosa residence, a tree estimated to be about 90 feet tall toppled over, barely missing the house and crushing two cars, said Kasandra Renteria, who lives there with her family.

In low-lying Petaluma, Battalion Fire Chief Russ Rasmussen stayed up late Saturday night into Sunday morning monitoring the rain gauges on creeks flowing into town for flooding.

"Some got to levels where we needed to start paying attention," he said, "but we never had any overflow their banks."

A stream near the Rancho Adobe Fire Station in Penngrove was rising quickly Sunday morning and appeared close to flooding Penngove Park, according to the Rancho Adobe Fire Department.

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