It was 1986 and 1995 when two of the worst floods hit the Guernewood area: Guerneville, Monte Rio, and all the towns along Highway 116. The Russian River’s water levels hit 45 and 48 feet, flooding countless homes and businesses.
This weekend was nowhere near those record floods. In fact, the worst of it may be over, but the Russian River is the only Bay Area river expected to rise into Monday morning. The water levels rose to above 25 feet just after Sunday 8 p.m., up from above 23 feet earlier in the afternoon. Dozens of people, many of them from Santa Rosa, decided to visit along the river to check out the higher water levels. Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville was a popular destination as the entire parking lot of the beach was flooded, sending water past the front yellow gates. Most residents said it was interesting enough to check out, but not nearly enough to be concerned about “real” flooding.
In fact, having an emergency plan in place is routine for just about everyone in these communities. Barbara Hofmann, who just moved back to Guerneville a year ago, said, “Everybody here knows what to do. You pack up a suitcase, and get ready to put it in your trunk!” In nearby Rio Nido, some residents were trying to find emergency supplies, like Nancy Drew and her family of five.
“When the seasonal creeks start to crest, then you have to worry about flooding. It’s a canyon, so it’s lower than River Road,” said Drew. “If it gets bad and you decide not to leave, you can be stuck in there – I’ve heard people have been stuck back for a week!” Her 10-year-old son, Danny Drew, said he enjoyed watching the aftermath, although not all of it was fun. “The power went out in the whole neighborhood.”
Down in Sonoma, five to nine inches of rain pelted the grounds, saturating them, forcing some streets to flood. In San Anselmo, the creek topped out at two feet below the 15-foot flood stage, avoiding widespread water damage. “It was more [high], I think it was almost going to come up,” said Rita Evans, a lifelong San Anselmo resisdent. “It almost flooded all the streets of San Anselmo!”
Most people living near these vulnerable waterways told NBC Bay Area that it takes a lot more than this weekend’s storms to send them anywhere close to panic mode. Hofmann explained it’s all in a person’s philosophy. “You get out because you live low, or you stay where you are because you live high [up]. You’re not worried.”
For the Drew family, who moved from the Midwest just a few years ago, it’s all about one’s perspective. “In a few months, back in Wisconsin, they’re going to have seven feet of snow. So where you live, there’s something, and this isn’t that, that bad.”