Russian River floods with rain, evacuations necessary

Hundreds of homes along the Russian River are flooded, or in danger of flooding, as the rain-swollen river swells over its banks.

Monday night, new evacuations were made necessary by a landslide in Monte Rio, as heavy rain continued to fall.

At least seven homes in the area of Old Monte Rio Road and Santa Rosa Avenue were red-tagged as uninhabitable.

Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman told KTVU the homes were in danger of trees falling on them because the mudslide was creating instability.

He said the true extent of the slide's size and damage would not be known until daylight Tuesday.

Tuesday is also expected to bring more rain, high winds, and king tides to the already storm- battered area.

"We've been here for a long time, we know what to do," said a flooded resident of Neely Road as she climbed into a kayak to be towed to her home after work.

"This is how we got to our coffee shop this morning," she explained, smiling.

"We run a coffee shop in town, and people need their coffee, so it had to be made, "higher ground" literally!"

Many river residents are seeing higher ground right now, as the Russian River crested three feet above flood stage Monday afternoon, and is expected to reach almost tha point again by Wednesday.

Skyfox aerials over the area show murky brown water creeping into low-lying properties and lapping against second story balconies.

"As we see, mother nature says the mighty mighty Russian River still is might," Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore told KTVU, alongside flooded vineyards on River Road.

Gore expects there will be property damage, but calls the current flooding "moderate" compared to previous, more widespread events,

However, he notes many people may be new to the region, and unprepared for anything like it.

"Really the last significant floods like this, were more than a decade ago, so there are a lot of new people saying, 'Wow this is the first time I've seen it like this.'"

On Church Street in Guerneville, newcomer John Neff was watching his flooded neighbors nervously.

"We're right at the edge of the flood and we're holding out until it takes us over," Neff told KTVU.

"We're already parked at the neighbors and we're ready to go if we have to."

An estimated 3,000 households were advised of rising waters and urged to evacuate, but many flood veterans were staying put and waiting to see if the situation worsens.

"They say it's no big deal," marveled Neff.

"They say 1985 floods wiped everyone out, with four feet of water in the Safeway Store. Compared to this? I'll take it!"

Monday's break in the rain only lasted until early-evening, when heavy rain began falling again, adding to the foot that has fallen over four days.

"We grabbed clothes, coffee pot, blankets, kid stuff," described evacuee Amber Sapienza of Guerneville, showing KTVU possessions stuffed in her car.

Sapienza and neighbor Lisa Wooley have waded through waist-deep water to their Church Street homes to retrieve belongings to take to a hotel temporarily.

"I can't feel my feet, they're so cold," Wooley told KTVU, "and our boots are filled with water, so every time we come out, we empty them."

So far, they said, the flood had submerged their steps but had not entered their houses.

"I'm just worried about water getting in the house," admitted Sapienza, " and I'm hearing that the river's supposed to come up and get even deeper."