Sonoma County pounded by rain, flash-flood watches and warnings in effect

- The North Bay was awash with water Thursday, with flood watches and warnings in several counties.

Steady rain fell all day and into the night, bringing rivers and streams to the brink of overflow.

By 5 p.m., Caltrans had closed Highway 121, where it intersects Highway 12, outside the city of Sonoma.

The stretch, near Schellville, was underwater and impassable, although without barriers, some drivers might have tried.

"Yeah they try, they try to go through the flooding and it doesn't work out," CHP Officer Tyler Loveless told KTVU. "The learn the hard way."

First responders were poised to rescue drivers stranded in standing water, and got at least one call: from outside Sebastopol.

A couple in a Toyota stalled out, and may find it's an expensive- and embarassing- mistake.    

"If they have vapor lock in their engines, basically their car is done, once water gets in there, " explained Officer Tyler. "And when people are stuck, we have to go fish them out." 

The new round of storms is also taking a toll on drought-weakened trees.

On Oak Knoll Avenue in Napa County a huge oak split in half and toppled across the two-lane road.  

"We think it was age, the weather and probably disease as well," Captain Justin Benguerel or Calfire/Napa County Fire told KTVU.

"This was one of our first storm related calls, and it could potentially get busier."

The tree owner felt the thud, and her home shudder.  

"I thought it was an earthquake," resident Evelyn Embody told KTVU. "That tree has been here a long time, kind of like a landmark. But I'm glad it didn't fall on my house or crush anybody going by on the road."  

In Santa Rosa, the timing was also lucky on a roof collapse at the K-Mart store on Cleveland Avenue. It happened just before 8am, so the store hadn't opened, and no one was hurt.

"That's why we tell people 'clear your gutters, this is exactly why," Assistant Fire Marshal Pau Lowenthal told KTVU.

The thirty foot awning was weakened by dry rot, but fire officials say any roof can fail if water is obstructed and doesn't drain properly.

With both the Petaluma and Napa Rivers rising, along with their tributaries, officials also want to emphasize the dangers of fast-movng water.

"Be aware when you hear flood warning," cautioned Lowenthal, "because waters can rise quickly. If you have kids, keep them out of the creeks in this kind of weather."




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