Guerneville flood to get worse as Russian River to hit 38.4 feet – SFGate


The Russian River surged over roads, into neighborhoods and began inundating homes Tuesday amid a relentless drumbeat of pounding rain.

Guerneville, which is no stranger to floods, appears to be in the biggest danger, with residents especially worried as they watched the river’s seemingly inexorable rise.

The Russian River is expected to reach a height of 38.4 feet at Guerneville on Wednesday night, more than six feet above flood stage, forecasters said.

“It’s gonna get worse,” declared Mike Collins, 34, who managed to get his truck across a lake that had formed on Neely Road and was helping others whose homes were marooned by the floodwaters.

Collins, who has missed two days of work trying to avert disaster, helped several people cross the high water Tuesday. By nightfall, he said, it would be impossible to ford the muddy waters, and anyone on the other side would be marooned.

“I’ve dealt with this before, so I’m helping my neighbors,” said Collins after crossing the floodwaters in his pickup truck one last time Tuesday to get crucial medication left behind by a couple whose son suffered from seizures. “It’s something you’ve got to take as it comes and just battle through it.”

Frank Walter was using a 200-foot line to pull cars across the water covering Neely and Drake Road, just across Highway 116.

“There are a lot of people stuck back there,” he said, pointing across to the stranded homes on Neely. “People get desperate and try to drive through the water and get stuck.”

Walter, who lives on Armstrong Woods Road, said he has been through eight floods in the 24 years he has lived in Guerneville and knows things are going to get worse before they get better.

“My house is starting to flood, so it’s going to affect me tonight,” he said. “All you can do is make sure you have provisions and ride the storm out.”

The low-lying areas weren’t the only places in Guernevelle harmed by the storm. A mudslide cascaded through redwoods and between two houses on a steep hillside on Santa Rosa Avenue Monday, forcing county officials to red-tag the homes. The entire street, off Duncan Road and Old Monte Rio Road, was a watery quagmire Tuesday, with mud, branches and debris covering the road.

As is standard when the Russian River floods, the Play Land Pee Wee Golf & Arcade was in the middle of a large brown lake of water. The colorful miniature golf course featured a purple dinosaur, red mushroom, green alligator and a happy whale jutting out as if on a jaunty swim. A sign stood in the middle of the water needlessly informing visitors that the place was “closed.”

Samantha Doyle, 40, had nowhere to go with her two children Tuesday except the local coffee shop after her entire neighborhood on Sycamore Court flooded, leaving 15 raised cabins stranded in water. Doyle was living in an recreational vehicle on the grounds, but moved it out.

“We saw the water coming up, so my friend’s father towed me out,” said Doyle, who parked the RV on Armstrong Woods Road and managing without water or electricity with her daughter Lilith, 9, and son, Bear, 8, two dogs and two cats.

“It’s been stressful,” said Doyle, who organizes activities for severely injured patients at Healdsburg Hospital. “I’ve had to take time off from work. But I’ve also seen a lot of people being helpful in town. People realized we’re all in this together and a lot of people who have been through this before are offering a helping hand. It’s really comforting.”

Doyle’s son, Bear, seemed to be enjoying himself as he played board games and ran around the Coffee Bazaar with his sister on Tuesday.

“It’s bad and cool,” Bear said about the flood. “It’s cool because there’s lots of water that is good for the earth. It’s bad because it will get water in our houses and it could be dangerous for people who don’t know how to swim.”

It wasn’t as bad as the New Year’s Day flood of 2006, but it was bad and will get worse. The river is expected to rise to 38.4 feet at Guerneville Wednesday night.

That’s well below the 2006 level of 44.26 feet, and even lower than the river’s record height of 49.7 feet reached in 1955.

But it will be high enough to creep over the riverbank and into low-lying areas alongside, where it will do more damage, soak more basements and send more residents scrambling for higher ground. The mini-golf course dinosaur will remain an endangered species.

On Tuesday, firefighters were patrolling on Jet Skis and families were taking canoe rides down residential streets. A silver BMW was up to its door handles in floodwater, becoming the ultimate non-driving machine. So many residents were wading in gaiters that it could have passed for the opening day of fly fishing season.

For the next two days, the National Weather Service has issued no fewer than five different kinds of cautions for the Russian River area — a flood warning, a coastal flood advisory, a wind advisory, a flash-flood watch and a hazardous-weather outlook.

Things are expected to dry out on Thursday and Friday and into the weekend, with the sun expected to poke through the clouds. But before that can happen, a lot of water will flow under the bridge. About 45,000 cubic feet of it per second, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Peter Fimrite and Steve Rubenstein are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: and Twitter: @pfimrite and @SteveRubeSF