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Russian River to crest Wednesday morning, lower than expected


8:45 a.m.

Sunshine seemed a bit of a shock Wednesday morning after a week of dark skies and heavy rain, however scattered showers remained in the forecast with another storm rolling in Thursday.

“Scattered showers could pop up here and there today. There’s another system Thursday so don’t let your guard down quite yet,” said Steve Anderson, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Thursday’s storm should move quickly through the region, bringing up to 2 inches of rain, Anderson said. The heaviest downpours should arrive early Thursday and last into the afternoon.

“Then we’ll finally have a real bonafide break, Friday through Tuesday,” Anderson said.

But next Wednesday could bring another soaking storm. While it’s several days out, forecasts show it has potential to bring substantial rainfall.

This year has had the rainiest start in Santa Rosa since 1995. Downtown Santa Rosa has had 8.9 inches of rain, basically from three storms in the last week. A records check for more rain in the same time period leads to 1995 when 9.05 inches fell. That year stands out for it’s historic rainfall and regional flooding.

Since the storms began one week ago, most residents in Sonoma County’s populated areas have had between 6-10 inches of rain, Anderson said. The extreme rainfall record goes to the mostly unpopulated hills separating the west county and western Healdsburg with 21.23 inches. That was recorded at the isolated wather station off Mill Creek Road in an area once known as Venado.

8 a.m.

The Russian River Wednesday morning is expected to crest at 37.6 feet, well under a prediction Tuesday night that it could reach 39.8 feet later in the day.

While that was an improvement from Tuesday’s situation, when torrential rainfall and ferocious winds pounded the county, the situation remained serious Wednesday morning.

Wednesday there were 54 roads closed in Sonoma County, mainly from flooding and mudslides, thousands of west county residents remained without power and low‑lying areas of the Russian River remained flooded.

[roads: county]

Fourteen Sonoma County school districts were closed Wednesday, all in the west county except Alexander Valley near Healdsburg.

Tuesday’s extra-heavy rains and runoff calculations led to the 39.8-foot prediction and Sonoma County officials reiterated an advisory evacuation to about 3,000 residents in low-lying river communities.

That advisory remained in place Wednesday but the situation appeared much better, said Rebecca Wachsberg, county spokeswoman.

The crest prediction “is back down significantly,” Wachsberg said early Wednesday. When the Russian River reaches 40 feet in Guerneville, flooding turns severe.

The crest Wednesday was due about 10 a.m. Extra Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies were on duty Wednesday morning, assigned in the Russian River area, said Sgt. Rey Basurto.

The pummeling series of storms in the last week has brought double-digit rainfall to some Sonoma County areas and created havoc throughout a huge area of California, from blizzards and many feet of snow in the Sierra and flooding along several rivers and creeks in the Bay Area.

Wednesday morning in Santa Rosa appeared promising, with lighter skies and no rain, at least for awhile. Showers were predicted into Thursday. But the aftermath of days of rain has taken a toll.

Tuesday evening trees were falling and reports of new roadways going under water were swamping dispatch lines. Some residents heading home into the west county found their main route home blocked as well as their alternative routes. Early Wednesday west county roads were littered with branches and brush.

Problems continued to emerge early Wednesday.

One emergency dispatch call at 7:45 a.m. reported water from the swollen Laguna de Santa Rosa was creeping over Occidental Road near Sanford and High School roads. Traffic was backing up as drivers in both directions were sharing a narrow area to pass.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport.