Rain Prompts Evacuation Warning for Northern California Town

February 26, 2019 Updated: February 26, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO—Torrential rain from a winter storm that has also dumped heavy snow in mountainous areas prompted California authorities to urge thousands of residents to evacuate a town north of San Francisco.

Residents of Guerneville, population 4,500, were told to evacuate homes and businesses because the Russian River was expected to overflow Tuesday night, Feb. 26, when it reaches 32 feet.

The river was expected to crest Wednesday night at 46 feet in the community 75 miles north of San Francisco.

“We’re definitely in high concern mode,” said Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum. “We’re bringing our boats out here and we’re letting the public know to take this one serious.”

Nevada Department of Transportation officials tend to a rolled over high profile vehicle on the Interstate 580 south of Reno, Nev., Feb 25, 2019. (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

At the River Inn Grill in Guerneville, workers were preparing by putting perishables on high shelves in storage rooms.

But manager Andre Vazquez said the one-story building could be largely submerged that if the river reaches 46 feet.

“If it gets to 46 feet, it’s done. There is no way to prepare for that,” Vazquez said.

The town often floods during heavy rain and people seemed nonchalant Tuesday about the threat, said Joseph Chung, whose parents own the Koala’s Fine Food restaurant.

“A couple of weeks ago people were using kayaks to get to their mailbox,” Chung said. “If it gets really bad, we’ll get out.”

High winds from a fierce winter storm snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nev., on Feb. 25, 2019. (Scott Sonner/AP Photo).
The Nevada Highway Patrol parks next to a rolled over high profile vehicle on the Interstate 580 south of Reno, Nev., on Feb 25, 2019. (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

For now, Chung said, the restaurant planned to stay open until its normal 10 p.m. closing time.

The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings and flash flood watches for the San Francisco Bay Area and many parts of the Sacramento area, lasting into Thursday morning.

While some areas could see 6 inches of rain or more—and as much as 12 inches on mountains—the intensity will not be fierce enough to cause devastating mudslides in areas denuded by a string of devastating wildfires, such as Shasta and Lake counties, the weather service said.

Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Feb. 25, 2019. (Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)

In the Sierra Nevada along the California-Nevada line, forecasters warned of possible whiteout conditions from blowing snow in high mountain passes. The mountains could get up to 6 feet of snow at higher elevations and winds gusting to 140 mph over ridgetops.

Several mountain highways, including Interstate 80 at Donner Summit, were repeatedly closed for short periods Tuesday because of whiteout conditions.

The storm already has barreled through other parts of the West, toppling trucks and trees, triggering power outages and closing roads and schools from Oregon to Montana.

It is the latest in a string that has dumped record levels of snow and rain this winter in western U.S. states.

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