Published: Mon, March 04, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Floods Turn Northern California Towns Into Islands

Floods Turn Northern California Towns Into Islands

A California town north of San Francisco is accessible only by boat after a rain-swollen river overflowed its banks inundated it overnight, authorities said Wednesday.

The river reached 40.5 feet Wednesday morning, cutting off the town of Guerneville, the Sonoma County sheriff tweeted.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday afternoon, when the river was first predicted to surpass its flood stage.

The Russian River in Sonoma County crested at more than 46 feet (14 metres) Wednesday night, flooding about 2,000 buildings.

The storm is expected to continue until Friday, bringing with it rain, wind and snow, making travel into the Sierra Nevada mountain range risky.

The National Weather Service categorizes any floods above 45 feet as "disastrous" for Guerneville, predicting that almost all its downtown will flood at that height. More than 8 feet of water inundated the 23-room business.

Forecasters said the heaviest storm of the winter season has dumped about 20 inches of rain in Sonoma County in just three days.

A northern California town has been cut off from the rest of the Golden State after flooding made the roads impassable by any mode of transportation other than a boat. Reached by telephone, Bridges said there was about 7 feet of water at his two-story home in Guerneville Wednesday but was not anxious. The record is 49.5 feet, set in 1986, the National Weather Service says.

The affected areas have been caught in what meteorologists call an 'atmospheric river, ' which is a long, narrow stretch of water vapour that can cause heavy rainfall and flooding when combined with strong winds.

The river frequently floods in rainy weather but it hadn't reached that level for 25 years and wasn't expected to recede again until late Thursday night.

"Major flooding is considered 34 feet and above, and the record crest for this location is 40.6 feet", Strait also warned Tuesday.

In Sonoma County, Sheriff Mark Essick said Thursday that three women had to be rescued.

"It's the price you pay to live in paradise", he said. Officials said they are in the planning stages to allow people to re-enter as early as Friday, Dugan said. "It happened so fast you don't even know, you know?"

"I could not afford to buy flood insurance", she said.

Throughout Tuesday night, firefighters in Monte Rio worked tirelessly, helping people out of cars stranded in flooded roadways. An estimated 4,000 people were told to leave, but officials said only about half of those who were told to evacuate actually left their homes.

"We made a decision to take the rental vehicle through the waist-high water and we got two thirds of the way and then the auto stalled", she said.

Orr moved to Guerneville about five years ago, driven out of San Francisco by rising costs.

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