Days of storms topple trees, weaken soil

As clean-up continues in the North Bay, Mill Valley city officials are worried that ground saturation could cause more storm-related problems.

The run-off from the steep hillsides has already made several trees fall. And as crews work over-time to clear debris, officials are concerned about areas where the soil could be unstable. Soft ground could lead to mudslides and more falling trees.

Officials warn that structures like telephone poles and retaining walls could also be weakened by ground saturation.

In Sonoma County, high water temporarily closed the intersection of Highway 12 at Highway 121. The low-lying area between Sonoma and San Pablo Bay floods frequently. The intersection was reopened around 7 a.m. Wednesday

The storm has also brought some flooding to wine country in some of the usual places. Water over-topped a levee along Sonoma Creek where it borders the Larson Family Winery. This usually happens every year and this year the creek has been especially high according to the winery owner right now, water is continuing to flood into a portion of the 70 acres of chardonnay vines.

"It's a nuisance, but it's not a bad nuisance; it's good for the ground, it's good for agriculture, it's good to recharge our groundwater," winery owner Tom Larson said. "It's kind of a pain for having to clear all the debris from the valley out of the vineyard; there's trees in there, there's logs, basketballs, volley balls, you name it. Whatever comes down the creek is what we get."

Larson says it costs about $10,000 a year to remove all the debris once the rainy season ends.

In East Palo Alto, emergency measures are holding on a failed creek levee and residents are eager to see work begin on long-term plans for protecting their homes.

A stretch of Highway 1, south of Big Sur, remains closed after rock slides from the weekend storm. The slide happened Sunday afternoon. Crews are working to clear the debris and to repair a 60 foot section of damaged roadway at Partington Ridge Road. Officials hope to have one lane open later this week.

Two people have died in avalanche-related accidents near Lake Tahoe. A 53-year-old member of the ski patrol was buried in the snow at Alpine Ski Ranch. His team was setting explosives to intentionally trigger an avalanche -- a routine snow safety measure. Monday, a snowboarder died after getting caught in an avalanche at Donner Ski Ranch. He has now been identified as a 49-year-old Truckee man.

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