Posted: Jan 11, 2017
FORESTVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Emergency crews in rescue boats and helicopters rushed to take advantage of a one-day break between storms Monday to rescue stranded people and assess damage after the heaviest rain in a decade overwhelmed parts of California and Nevada.
Wine country in Sonoma County, California, was among the hardest hit areas, with up to 13 inches of rain since Friday. Rolling hills and vineyards along the scenic route known as River Road were submerged Monday with just the tips of vines visible in completely flooded fields.
The Russian River in Sonoma rose to its highest level since 2006, spilling over its banks and forcing the closure of schools and roads.
The weekend storm dumped more than a foot of water on parts of Northern California, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate and leaving thousands without power. The system raised rivers over their banks and toppled trees, among them the fabled giant sequoia dubbed "Pioneer Cabin" that had a drive-thru tunnel carved into its base more than a century ago.
Another strong storm was bearing down on the region and expected to hit Tuesday.
Such gaps between storms are "what saves us from the big water," Fire Chief Max Ming said in the Russian River town of Forestville, where rescuers launched rafts and used a helicopter to search for people cut off by rising water. "People hunker down and wait for it to get past."
The back-to-back storms that hit California and Nevada since last week are part of an "atmospheric river" weather system that draws precipitation from the Pacific Ocean as far west as Hawaii. That kind of system, also known as the "pineapple express," poses catastrophic risks for areas hit by the heaviest rain.
"It's been about 10 years since we've experienced this kind of rainfall," said Steve Anderson, a National Weather Service forecaster. "We're getting a little bit of a break today, but we have another storm system arriving tomorrow that's not quite as potent but could still cause problems."
Avalanche concerns kept some California ski areas closed for a second day Monday in the Sierra Nevada. Forecasters said more snow and rain was on the way.
The Russian River is prone to flooding, but this year's flood has been particularly worrisome because it threatened to topple trees weakened by six years of drought.
A flood warning for the Russian River was in effect, along with a high wind watch planned for Tuesday afternoon and evening, Anderson said.
Source: San Francisco Gate
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press
January 10, 2017
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