Bay Area braces for series of storms; heavy rains predicted

- Emergency planners in the North Bay are taking Thursday's oncoming storm seriously, with 3 to 6 inches of rain forecast over a three-day period. 

"They're saying this is a series of three storms, each one tapering off a little more," Sonoma County Emergency Services Coordinator Chris Helgren told KTVU, "so it's our first big rain, and we're going to have wind too, so the possibility of power outages and that sort of thing is real."

Helgren notes creeks are low, if not bone-dry, but they are also full of brush and leaves so the first soaking is always a test.

"These things, when they come in and come in good, it gives us a chance to clear out all the ravines, before winter really comes."

Homeowners are urged to clear gutters and storm drains that could clog and cause flooding on their properties.

Trees are still laden with leaves, ready to drop with the first strong system.

Helgren notes the last atmospheric river to drench the region was in March. He hopes this early soaking bodes well for a wet winter.

"Looking at the projections, we see in a six hour period, we may get almost an inch," he noted, "but the Russian River is so low, it doesn't even register it."

"The interesting part is, we're still geared up for wildland season," observed Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.

Walking along the Santa Rosa Creek downtown, he pointed out how the steps and walkways were entirely submerged last March, when the ground was already saturated. 

For the coming storm, Lowenthal is concerned mostly about property damage from lack of preparation and power outages from wind whipping through trees and lines.

The wet weather may also bring fire season to a quicker close, but for now, water rescue and wildfire gear are both needed.   

"Wind speeds are going to pick up and there's literally that potential, that we could be going to grass fires, vegetation fires, and storm related issues, in that same window," Lowenthal told KTVU.

Delayed maintenance at home or behind the wheel, can't wait much longer.

Driver Joanne Johnson showed KTVU the back window of her SUV, which is stuck in the down position.

She's worried about rain soaking her vehicle, and home isn't faring much better.

"Every time it rains, our roof leaks. And then when my dad goes to fix it, it rains more, so we're not ready at all."

Fire Marshal Lowenthal also reminds families who live near waterways, that runoff can rise fast.

After months of letting kids play in dry creek beds, now is the time to warn them off, and make sure they're aware of the dangers.    

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