Storm updates: Flooding in Guerneville prompts evacuations, leaves big mess

ByZach Fuentes and Lena Howland, Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Flooding in Guerneville prompts evacuations, leaves big mess
One community in Sonoma County is drying out and cleaning up after heavy rains brought flooding after a creek overflowed its banks Monday.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Multiple storms are bringing wet weather back to the Bay Area with the wet pattern continuing into early this week. Sunday and Monday are Level 2 Moderate storms on the ABC7 Exclusive Storm Impact Scale.

LIVE: Track rain in San Francisco Bay Area with Live Doppler 7

STORM TIMELINE: Weekend's rainfall totals, tracking next Bay Area storm, Lions vs. 49ers forecast


5:15 p.m. 'Rough night': Flooding in Guerneville prompts evacuations, leaves big mess

One community in Sonoma County is drying out and cleaning up after heavy rains brought flooding after a creek overflowed its banks Monday.

One community in Sonoma County is drying out and cleaning up after heavy rains brought flooding after a creek overflowed its banks Monday.

Flood water rushed in overnight to a Guerneville neighborhood, the water rising fast inside the Sycamore Court mobile home park, resident Al Mathers couldn't believe it.

"I just talked to the police, they've been sitting on the corner and he said, in less than 20 minutes it flooded," said Mathers.

First responders say heavy rain caused water to rise as high as four feet.

"The water comes from Fife Creek, off the mountains all the surface water and we don't have enough infrastructure to get it out of here fast enough," said Sonoma County Fire District Captain Jason Jones.

Jones says his swift water rescue team went door to door, to assist anyone who needed to evacuate.

"They were banging on the trailer to make sure everybody was ok, there was about three inches of water on our floor. The whole trailer is covered in water right now, it's just been a rough night," said resident Amber Hughes.

Hughes showed us just how high the water got on her trailer and shared pictures of the mess it left inside, everything is soaked. She and her husband Brandon are now looking for a new home.

"And now, we're talking to her mother-in-law about staying in Rohnert Park, so far we evacuated our pets there," said Brandon James.

While we were there, the Red Cross showed up to offer assistance.

"The situation here requires cleanup, and that's what we're going to try and provide assistance for," said Leland Montell from Sonoma American Red Cross.

The storm prompted schools in Guerneville to close Monday.

And a big clean up on Highway 116 after a tall tree toppled, blocking the road and took out a PG&E Power pole with it.

Back at Sycamore Court, Shavon Harp was putting on waders to see what was left of the trailer she evacuated at midnight.

"It's disheartening, I probably am homeless, I don't have the words, it's scary and sad, it happens fast with warning, no water and 20 minutes later all the water was on the ground," said Harp.

5 p.m. Tree destroys Santa Cruz County cabin, blocks Highway 9

In Santa Cruz County, a cabin was destroyed after a large tree crashed into it. That tree also blocked parts of Highway 9 in both directions.

In Santa Cruz County, a cabin was destroyed after a large tree crashed into it. That tree also blocked parts of Highway 9 in both directions between Keystone Way and Glengarry Road for hours as crews worked to clear the tree.

It all made for a devastating morning for Jeanette Bemis whose family had owned the cabin for 71 years. It's not her primary residence but it's a treasured one she comes to often. Bemis had planned to use the cabin for a Girl Scout meeting the day the tree crashed.

"I was planning to come out here this morning and get a fire started in the fireplace and dry it all out and get it set up for the Girl Scout meeting," she said, "I got a text from my neighbor across the street with a photo saying, 'Your house!'".

The back of the cabin faces Highway 9. Monday morning, the massive tree on the side of the highway furthest from her home, slid down the mountain side and fell over.

The crown of the tree crashed right into the cabin. It had an explosive-type effect that sent many sentimental items out in the yard.

"Just the air coming out, opened the windows and pushed out this little stuffed polar bear," Bemis said as picked up the item.

The downed tree didn't just impact Bemis.

Falling trees in the area have only been made worse by the repeated storms Santa Cruz County has seen for more than a year now.

"These big trees that have substantial root systems, their entire root ball has come up due to this saturated ground," said Kevin Drabinski, a Caltrans spokesperson.

Drabinksi said that Caltrans crews have prepared as much as they can for winter storms and are still doing that, even as they work to clear existing issues.

"We're just responding, doing our cleaning up and we'll continue that cycle of preparing, responding and cleaning up waiting for the next system," Drabinski said.

Despite the devastation done to her cabin Bemis is grateful.

"If I had been there sleeping, of course I would not be standing here," she said, "I'd be dead."

Though she says the cabin is a total loss, Bemis said she plans to rebuild and keep the beloved land in her family.

"This place is heaven on earth and it will still be heaven on earth," she said, "That's just a building."

11 a.m.: Guerneville residents react to flood damage

Residents of Guerneville in Sonoma County are cleaning up and assessing the damage after rapid flooding hit the town early Monday morning.

Schools in Guerneville are closed for the day on Monday after the city was hit with major flooding overnight.

Firefighters had to go door-to-door overnight, warning more than 100 residents to prepare to evacuate.

"I don't want to do this, ahhh," Shavon Harp, a Guerneville resident said as she put on a pair of waders so she can see what was left of her trailer after she evacuated around midnight.

"I'm trying to wade through the carnage here and see how high the water is on the other side, we'll see what happens here in a minute," she said. "This is like the 15th time this has happened."

Fife Creek breached its banks overnight, flooding the small community north of downtown Guerneville, leaving a trail of damage across the city and shutting down schools on Monday.

"It's disheartening, I probably am homeless so I just don't have words, it's scary, and it's sad and it happens just so fast, with no warning, like there was no water on the ground from what I understand and like 20 minutes later, all the water was on the ground," she said.

The Sonoma County Fire District went door-to-door around 1 a.m., checking on more than 100 people.

They say, most stayed and sheltered in place.

"In less than 20 minutes, 30-20 minutes, it flooded," Al Mathers, a Guerneville resident said. "An hour and a half ago, I looked out my door, and my yard wasn't even that flooded, now it's up to my second step."

And while Harp's trailer appeared to be ok after she waded through the water, her cats are still missing and the cleanup is only in its early stages.

"It's a mess, there's propane tanks, wood, garbage, probably some sewage that may have spilled out but other than that, I would be concerned about the electrical, not making a connection," Larry Metz, a Santa Rosa resident said.

Fire officials say the danger is not over yet, with more rain on the way mid-afternoon on Monday and water levels are expected to rise once again.

8 a.m.: Mudslide in Santa Clara County

A mudslide blocked a roadway in Santa Clara County near Saratoga on Monday morning, Caltrans said.

The portion of state Highway 9 from Redwood Gulch Road to Sanborn Road is affected by the mud slide, Caltrans said on social media around 7:45 a.m.

Motorists are advised to use alternate routes.

5:30 a.m.: Fallen tree blocks road in San Mateo

A fallen tree shut down a roadway in San Mateo's Baywood-Aragon neighborhood early Monday morning, police said.

A fallen tree shut down a roadway in San Mateo's Baywood-Aragon neighborhood early Monday morning, police said.

The tree blocked traffic on West Fourth Avenue from Dartmouth Road to El Camino Real, the San Mateo Police Department said in an advisory around 5:10 a.m.

The affected roadway is expected to be closed until approximately 1 p.m. Monday or until the tree can be removed. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route.

San Mateo police reminded travelers to drive carefully in the rain and watch out for falling branches and debris that can cause damage to vehicles, windows, buildings, houses or anyone walking or driving in the area.

5 a.m.: North Bay flooding, evacuation preparations

Residents of Guerneville in Sonoma County were told to prepare to evacuate amid localized flooding in the town early Monday morning.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said in an advisory shortly before 2 a.m. that flood waters have risen in small creeks and streams in the northern areas of Guerneville due to weather conditions.

The American Red Cross has set up a response team in the parking lot at the Safeway supermarket in Guerneville, the Sheriff's office said.

The Guerneville School District in Sonoma County will be closed on Monday due to the flooding, the county's Office of Education said.

Video shows serious flooding happening right next to people's homes.

The water is high enough to cover the tires on some cars, and it is filling the yards of certain homes.

There is also flooding in Forestville Monday morning.

New video shows police blocking a section of Highway 116 in Forestville near Torris Drive due to flooding.

ABC7 has been told a car in the water had to be towed away.


11 p.m.: North Bay rain takes down 2 trees; residents prep for nighttime downpour

Heavy rain in the North Bay caused low visibility on roads, fallen trees and last-minute supply runs for many residents.

Rain in Santa Rosa on Sunday night made for poor visibility at times along Highway 101.

"Driving is a bit crazy. Some people just can't handle it, some hydroplaning, some people don't have their lights on," said Lilly Briggs.

"I like the rain. I don't like to drive in it," said Yolanda Mathis to which we replied, "How are the other drivers out there?"

Her response, "Not good."

A large pine tree came down along Watertrough Road in Sebastopol, but it doesn't appear as though anyone was hurt.

Crews were able to clear a tree that fell along Mark Springs Road in Santa Rosa. Some of the leaves from where it fell could still be seen on Sunday night.

As for those people braving the wet weather, yes there were quite a few late into the evening. Folks were making last-minute Safeway runs in the rain.

"Kids go back to school tomorrow. Had to finish up the shopping. It's my daughter's birthday today so gotta pick up a little something," said Miguel Rodriguez of Windsor.

"I don't mind the rain, because I love the weather, but when it comes to the extremities we're getting right now, we might all be concerned but no, the birds, the bees, the flowers, and the trees. No, seriously, it's important," said Sara Mills-Gaines.

It seems that while the umbrellas were important for many, they were not so important for others.

"Any umbrellas you brought out or anything?" we asked Miguel.

"We've got three in the car," he said, saying that the plan was to bolt in and out of the store quickly.

7:50 p.m.: Guerneville home 'yellow tagged' after landslide, firefighters ready for next storm

A home in Sonoma County is now 'yellow tagged' after a nearby landslide, and the homeowner spoke with ABC7 News.

In the North Bay, we're seeing some issues from the weekend storms.

A home in Sonoma County is now 'yellow tagged' after a nearby landslide, and the homeowner spoke with ABC7 News.

"Anxious, scared, worried. We really like this house," said homeowner Cindy Dawson.

Dawson is feeling a lot of emotions after a large landslide happened Saturday, only feet from her hillside home in Guerneville.

"I didn't think anything about it. It sounded like a clod. We didn't realize until a couple of hours later, 'Oh my gosh.' The slide starts at our living room and goes down to River Road," Dawson said.

First responders say the slide is about 30 feet wide and six feet deep with mud. It prompted Sonoma County inspectors to yellow tag Dawson's home, which means limited entry at the property -- and more rain is coming.

"We're going to try and get enough clothes out of here in case the house goes from river view to river front. We might wind up with river front suddenly -- that's a joke," she added.

A new storm is no joke to local firefighters. They're watching the Russian River and its tributaries for possible flooding over the next few days.

"A lot of saturation is going on right now. The river is maintaining, however it will increase with more rain that we see," said Sonoma County Fire District Captain Jason Jones.

Jones says his swift water rescue team is ready with watercraft and rope systems to bring victims to safety if needed.

"Our biggest concerns right now are landslides, trees down blocking roadways and causing more vehicle accidents," Jones said.

New homeowners John and Lisa Enterline say they're ready for rain.

"We are first-time homeowners. We kind of went through this last year. We're hoping it doesn't last as long this year. We'll stay dry as best we can," said John Enterline.

As for Dawson, she and her husband are leaving their home until it's safe to return.

"We've got our RV out of storage, and we'll be staying in an RV park until we figure out what to do and how to do it," Dawson said.

Dawson says she's working with the county and is keeping her fingers crossed that the remaining hill around her property holds during the next round of rain.

5:50 p.m.: Soquel San Jose Rd. closed in Santa Cruz due to fallen trees, downed powerlines: CHP

Soquel San Jose Road is closed in Santa Cruz due to fallen trees and downed powerlines, California Highway Patrol says.

The closure is at SSJ Rd. between Miller Hill and Miller cutoff.

PGE has a detour in place, according to CHP.

4:50 p.m.: Heavy rain causes landslide to block stretch of Canyon Road in Burlingame

Crews are out clearing a stretch of road in Burlingame blocked by dirt and rocks after heavy rainfall.

The storm knocked loose a chunk of hillside that blocked part of Canyon Road at El Prado Road.

There are no reports of injury or vehicle damage, but the area has been closed off while the debris is cleared.

4:40 p.m.: BART services delayed due to rain, agency says

BART says they're running trains at slower speeds due to wet weather on Sunday.

The agency is cautioning riders about possible wet stairways and platforms.

You can get the latest train status updates on the BART app or at

4:20 p.m.: Sierra weekend snow totals reported by UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab in Soda Springs said Sunday morning it received 7.7 inches of snow since Saturday morning.

They reported light snow Sunday and 9,4 inches of snow since the last round of storms began. Lab officials said they're expecting a break Sunday afternoon before heavier snow falls overnight and into Monday.

4 p.m.: All lanes blocked on Hwy 128 in Napa Co. due to fallen trees, Caltrans says

Caltrans says all lanes are blocked on Highway 128 in Napa County between Rutherford Road and Conn Creek Road due to downed trees. It says The ETA to have the road completely cleared is 8 p.m Sunday.

10:30 a.m.: Heavy returns Sunday night

The National Weather Service said Sunday morning that light rain will persist at times throughout the day Sunday in the Bay Area. Heavier rain will be back overnight into Monday morning.

Expect moderate to heavy rain at times and gusty winds. Thunderstorms are possible. Minor flooding of roads and streams is also possible, along with the possibility of shallow landslides due to saturated soil.

The NWS said the greatest potential for water-related impacts is in the North Bay, where a flood watch will be in effect.

A wind advisory will be in effect along the coast. Expect downed branches and trees. Minor flooding near the Bay will occur during high tide cycles, with a coastal flood advisory in effect.

Lightning from possible thunderstorms is possible.


11 p.m.: Weekend storm leaves San Franciscans worried about flooding as rain picks up

The San Francisco Fire Department is asking drivers to be aware of the wet roads and lower visibility as potential for flooding increases.

The streets of San Francisco were soaked Saturday.

Umbrellas were up and hoodies were on.

"We just want to show our support for the bar, for the Niners," said 49ers fan Megan Intal.

"I'm surprised people are out here. I thought it was just going to be us," said Brandon Shih.

None of these Niners fans were letting the rain put a damper on the day.

"I mean it's a different vibe, right? We want to be watching the game with everyone else instead of just watching the game at home alone," Shih said.

"I was like 'I'm going to come out, and I'm going to see what it's all about,' and I decide to stick with it," said 49ers fan Brandon Williams.

The San Francisco Fire Department is asking drivers to be aware of the wet roads and lower visibility.

"We ask people to slow down a little bit and take some more time to get to where they're going. We also ask the riders and people walking to wear reflective clothing and something with high visibility," said Lt. Mariano Elias, spokesperson for SFFD.

And they say it's a good idea to be a good neighbor.

"There's a lot of flooding in and around the neighborhoods and the SF Water Department has a program called adopt-a-drain, where someone in the neighborhood can be aware of the storm drain and it getting clogged up with leaves and other miscellaneous items on the streets," Elias said.

It's a reality small business owner Santa Barrios of Sophistafunk knows all too well. Her salon was flooded during last year's storms.

"I was about to start a client, and we started hearing a bunch of noise. So what ended up happening is all the gutters were packed with stuff inside, so within minutes, the flooding just happened," Barrios said.

She's been at her Mission District location for nearly 14 years and knows how quickly the area can flood.

"This is the valley here, so everything comes this way. And down at Folsom, it's always, always flooded," Barrios said.

The Public Works Department put up barricades in preparation for the down pouring. People stacked sandbags to protect their homes and businesses, hoping for the best.

"God, I just hope it doesn't flood, you know? And we're prepared, and it doesn't happen again," Barrios said.

6:30 p.m.: New storm brings more wind, rain and possible landslide threat to North Bay

First responders are standing by across the North Bay, ready for possible flooding and landslides.

The next round of rain is moving into the Bay Area and this storm could be quite a soaker. First responders are standing by across the North Bay, ready for possible flooding and landslides.

The storm moved into the Bay Area on Saturday, with the goal of getting everyone wet. The heavy rain was giving Marin County a super soaking but for some drivers, it was time for a pit stop.

"I'm getting new windshield wipers," said Kristen Artigiani.

Artigiani wasn't the only driver looking for help at the O'Reily Auto Parts in Petaluma, where old wipers bit the dust and new ones were installed by employee Garrett Verza.

"This is my first set for today, but I've done tons over the past couple of weeks," said Verza.

"Super awesome. I didn't know how to do it, so he offered to do it for me, and I said thank you. Now I'm ready to go drive around in the rain," said Artigiani.

In Santa Cruz, the CHP posted on X about a toppled 50-foot tree blocking Aptos Street at Soquel Drive. Drivers were asked to find an alternative route. Aptos Street reopened in the early Saturday afternoon.

"We ask people to slow down, stay home if you don't have to go out unless it's essential," said Sonoma County Fire District Captain, Jason Jones.

Sonoma County firefighters are watching the hills for possible landslides like one which occurred last winter on River Road in Guerneville. They're also keeping a close eye on the Russian River, which is well below flood stage.

"We've got a ways to go but if the rains continue or get heavier, it's something we're going to keep an eye on, we do have a swift water rescue team ready to deploy at any moment, we have all equipment ready and staged," said Jones.

In Mill Valley, umbrellas were up across town.

We found activist, Artis White trying to raise awareness about teen bullying in schools, the rain not dampening her message.

"It's a passion driven thing. It's no problem for me to be standing out here for the kids," said White.

The message to everyone this weekend...

"Stay safe and stay dry," Jones said.

4:30 p.m.: Flood Watch issued for North Bay Area starting Sunday night, NWS says

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch, meaning hazardous weather is possible, for the North Bay from 8 p.m. Sunday through 10 p.m. Monday.

Excessive rainfall may bring minor to moderate flooding with rapid rises in creeks and streams and a risk of landslides in Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties, forecasters said Saturday afternoon.

One to two inches of rain is expected by early Monday for the North Bay valleys, the weather service said.

Two to three inches is possible for the coastal mountains, and as much as four inches across the highest peaks, forecasters said.

The rest of the Bay Area is expected to receive from a half inch to one-and-a-half inches, according to forecasters.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

This story will be updated with new information as it is available.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live