Thousands Ordered to Flee Northern California Storms

A vineyard along River Road is flooded on Feb. 27, 2019, near Forestville, Calif. A river in Northern California’s wine country has reached flood stage and forecasters expect it to rise even more as a winter storm lashes the region. The National Weather Service says the Russian River in Sonoma County topped 32 feet Tuesday evening and it could crest at more than 46 feet by Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

(CN) – Days of an atmospheric river pummeling parts of Northern California have sent the Russian River over its banks, turning the town of Guerneville into an island.

Guerneville, nestled into a picturesque region famous for its wine, is currently only accessible by boat as the river that runs through its heart is 10 feet above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service.

“Guerneville is officially an island,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday. “Due to flooding all roads leading to the community are impassable. You will not be able to get into or out of town without a boat today.”

Evacuation orders were issued Tuesday and authorities have deployed a couple of boats to look for stranded residents.

The Russian River was listed at 42.8 feet at press time and is expected to crest at around 46 feet Wednesday evening before receding Thursday, according to officials. It represents the highest mark in a quarter century.

People fled the town as the river swallowed cars and inundated the first floor of homes lining several neighborhoods built in proximity to the river.

The Russian River is prone to flooding in wet years, but Wednesday’s crest will be the worst since 1995 when the river went to 48 feet, 16 feet above flood stage.

This week’s storms are part of a very active winter that has seen copious amounts of rain across the state and a historic snowpack in the Sierra.

While Guerneville appears to have taken the brunt of the latest storm, records have been set across Northern California this week. Sacramento saw 2.52 inches of rain, Cache Creek in Yolo County blew past flood stage Wednesday and Interstate 80 through the Sierra is closed because snowfall accumulation has made the road impassable.

In the past 48 hours, more than 6 ½ feet of snow has fallen on Castle Peak, just to the north of the highway, according to the National Weather Service.

Rain and snow are expected to continue into Thursday, although with less intensity. More rain and snow are predicted for the weekend, and some forecast models indicate unsettled weather extending through at least mid-March.

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