Russian River Rises 30 Feet, Making Canoes and Kayaks Best Ways to Get Around California Town

California Connection
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Cars and trucks are now almost useless in the town of Guerneville. Kayaks and canoes are much better for getting around.

The Russian River just keeps rising and rising — more than 30 feet in two days — and the water has left the community with 4,500 residents isolated.

“The roadways leading into the town along the river and across the river have been cut off by the rising floodwaters,” Sonoma County emergency manager Chris Godley said.

Stunned residents marveled at the rising waters Wednesday, raising cellphones with one arm and snapping unbelievable photos.

“It is incredibly flooded. It is really nuts. You see just the rooftops popping over on the side of the road,” Joe Pease, a county employee who delivered sandbags to firefighters but had to stop because of deep water, told CNN affilate KGO.

Aerial video from the station in San Francisco showed people paddling through Guerneville in canoes and kayaks. On some streets, the water reached the windows of cars. On one street, the water reached the rooflines of a few buildings.

The river was 13 feet above flood stage by Wednesday evening, and county officials issued an emergency declaration.

“I have lived here in this area for the last 10 years and this is the highest I have ever seen it,” said Zak Wood, who lives in Forestville, which is about a mile from the river.

Officials expect the river to crest overnight and for it to drop precipitously Thursday and Friday. It probably won’t reach a record height of 49.5 feet, but it will be close.

Sonoma County residents were told Tuesday night to evacuate

Not every road in Guerneville was under water — a few were still passable, and now lined by cars and trucks from owners who found the higher ground.

KGO reported that one hotel popular with wine enthusiasts was evacuated.

The town was the worst hit by flooding, but not the only one.

The sheriff tweeted a photo of part of a road in Monte Rio, about 5 miles away, deluged by water.

“Please heed evacuation orders,” the sheriff tweeted.

About 20 miles upriver, musician Garrett Pierce posted a video of the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge on Wednesday. Water rushes under the truss bridge, close to the spans. The video shows some breaks in the clouds.

More rain is forecast through Sunday — except on Thursday. A flood warning is in effect for parts of the area, the weather service said. A flood warning means flooding is imminent or occurring; a watch indicates potential for flooding based on forecasts.

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