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Friday, 01 March 2019 13:42

Heavy Flooding Turns Sonoma County, Calif., Towns into Islands

(TNS) - One of the winter’s strongest storms brought flooding across Northern California’s wine country Wednesday, with no region hit harder than the town of Guerneville and the Russian River Valley, which has been inundated repeatedly over the decades.

Some 3,600 people in about two dozen communities near the river were evacuated Wednesday by the flooding, which prompted the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to declare a local emergency. Authorities warned that those who chose to stay in their homes could be stuck there for days.

“We have waterfront property now,” said Dane Pitcher, 70, who watched from the third-story window of his bed and breakfast, the Raford Inn in Healdsburg, as rising water pooled to create a 100-acre lake in front of his property. “We’re marooned for all intents and purposes.”

The Russian River, which sat about 10 feet Monday morning, rose an extraordinary 34 feet over two days, said Carolina Walbrun, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Bay Area. By Wednesday afternoon, the river had swollen to 44.3 feet — more than 12 feet above flood stage. One rain gauge near Guerneville reported receiving nearly 20. 5 inches of rain in 48 hours by early Wednesday, turning the town into a Russian River island.