Russian River could hit flood stage before weekend is up

- A new storm system promises heavy rain for for Sonoma County's coastal hills, which could bring the Russian River close to flood stage.

"If it gets to 33 feet, then it will be up over the road," described Guerneville resident Anne Ferguson, outside her home.

Like anyone who lives near the river, she knows just how far it will creep with each stage.

"This weekend will be the test," added husband Scott, "but I only start to worry when people say 35 feet or more."    

The rain beginning Thursday could dump nine inches in the region, more than creeks can handle, and pushing them over their banks.

The Russian River, at Guerneville, is expected to crest just below 32 feet, flood stage, by Saturday morning.

"Well we're ready, " Anne told KTVU, "because we've got generators, if the freezer goes out, everyone barbecues, we've got canoes, but I don't think it's going to be that bad."

Local fire departments are checking their zodiac boats, in case they need to make any swift water rescues, or evacuate low-lying residents. The advice for those who habitually flood?  

"Plan early and if you think you don't want to stay, grab what you need for a few days and leave," cautioned Captain Ryan Lanta of the Russian River Fire District.

"If you think you might want to stay, make sure you have enough food, water, and supplies to stay in your residence for a few days until the water recedes."   

At the Creekside Inn and Resort on Neeley Road, owner Lynn Crescione was watching the real-time river gauge online, and the projected spike it's expected to make.

"We're at fourteen and a half feet right now," noted Crescione "but we know it can come up fast."

Crescione, after devastating floods in the 1980's and 1990's, raised all of her rooms on stilts, well out of the river's reach.

"We have to do it. We have to respect the river," Crescione told KTVU, "because you know, it was here first."

Elevating her units, she says, was a wise investment, remembering how floods submerged them in 1986.

"Water went up stairs to a second story, and was over one foot deep," she recalled. "And it didn't happen rapidly, it just rained and rained and rained. "   

That was the Russian River's worst recorded flood, when it swelled to almost 49 feet, three times what it is now.  

No one is expected that sort of deluge this weekend, but localized flooding won't surprise anyone.  

"If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't," shrugged resident Scott Ferguson.

"What are you going to do? Take it as it is! We've still got summer coming." 

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