Storm fatigue rises in Sonoma County as Russian River floods again

GUERNEVILLE —For fourth time in six weeks, the Russian River jumped its banks Friday in what has become a familiar and irksome ritual that has some in western Sonoma County looking back fondly on the last few years of drought.The strong series of storms...

Storm fatigue rises in Sonoma County as Russian River floods again

GUERNEVILLE —For fourth time in six weeks, the Russian River jumped its banks Friday in what has become a familiar and irksome ritual that has some in western Sonoma County looking back fondly on the last few years of drought.

The strong series of storms this winter and rising water levels on the river are a fact of life for many here. But some say they’ve had enough and are tired of putting their lives on hold.

“We’re so sick of it we’re moving,” said Brandi Courrier, who lives in a rental cabin home on Sycamore Court, behind the Fife Creek Commons housing complex.

On Friday afternoon, as the river crested above 34 feet, Courrier and her husband Ricky Ramirez parked their car at the edge of the flood waters to check on Courrier’s 68-year-old mother, who also lives in a rental cabin, and their pets.

Donning rubber boots, Ramirez waded through the brown, knee-high waters to their rental, where their cat greeted him. Courrier said the couple moved into the Sycamore property two years ago, and though “it’s beautiful here most months,” this winter has pushed them to a breaking point.

“It’s not worth battling the river every winter,” Courrier said. The couple left their property two nights before the latest storm hit and lodged at a Best Western in Santa Rosa. They’ve been looking at rental properties since then and plan to move over the weekend, before the next storm arrives next week.

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January was the wettest on record in Santa Rosa, dropping nearly 19 inches of rain at the county airport north of town. Nine more inches have been recorded at the airport in February. At Venado, in the hills west of Healdsburg — typically the wettest area in the county — just under 70 inches has fallen since the start of the year.

The latest storm dropped 2.73 inches of rain at the county airport.

Another strong storm series is expected to hit the North Coast by late Wednesday or early Thursday. Bob Benjamin, a forecaster for the National Weather Service said that storm is once again carrying a load of subtropical moisture and “has a chance of being formidable.”

For longtime Russian River area residents, such storms are the norm.

“We’ve been spoiled,” said Jeff Bridges, general manager of the r3 Hotel on 4th Street in Guerneville, referring to past winters with sunnier weather.

Bridges said the current barrage of rainstorms is “actually what winter should be like” in Sonoma County. And it’s the price you pay for living here, he said.

Businesses remain open and daily rituals continue, he said, something that news coverage of storms doesn’t always reflect.

Just down the street, The Woods Resort is still recovering from January’s flood, when Fife Creek jumped its banks and send more than two feet of water into six hotel rooms, the laundry room and office space. Drywall, some framing, electrical wiring and washers and dryers had to be replaced, said resort owner Michael Preaseau.

“You gotta look at the bright side,” he said. “It’s a remodel.”

Throughout Friday, emergency crews responded to reports of downed trees, mudslides and slip-outs. The county issued an advisory evacuation notice to several hundred residents living along the Russian River flood zone.

Roads and parks

Hazardous road conditions should be reported to the Transportation and Public Works at (707) 565-5100, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or the Sheriff’s Office, (707) 565-2121, after hours.
Nearly all or parts of the Russian River parks are closed, as well as Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa. For information on parks and trails affected by the storm, visit the county’s regional parks website.

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