Flood Hits Hard

photos of 2019 Russian River floodThe flood last week was Jeff Bridges’ fourth rodeo.  He is the owner of the R3 Hotel in Guerneville.  Over eight feet invaded his lodge, bar and restaurant (upper photo).  But Bridges was not intimidated.  After all, he had had his tetanus shot and was prepared to use lots of bleach and power washers.  However, even with protective gear, it is difficult to keep the river crud at bay.  It splashes onto your face and other areas of exposed skin.  Some were forced to halt cleanup as sickness set in, diarrhea in full swing. 

“It will be a total gut job and renovation,” Bridges said.  “But it will reopen bigger, better and more sparkly than before.”  Such is the uplifting attitude and familiar refrain from many who are determined to thumb their nose at the rebellious Russian River in exchange for a slice of paradise. (more…)

Businesses Flooded

images of 2019 floodThe February 27th flood injured several businesses along the Russian River, including over four hundred commercial or industrial buildings countywide.  The Rio theater in Monte Rio (upper left photo) had seen this several times before, at least seven times since its construction in 1950, but not to worry.  Its iconic piece of Christo’s Running Fence rests high and dry across the theater’s ceiling.  The owner, like many hardy souls in the area, owns a sense of humor.  Last weekend he changed the marquee out front to read A River Runs Thru It.

God only knows how many times the Highland Dell Hotel in Monte Rio (upper right photo) has been inundated since its inception in 1910.  Records state nine such incidents have occurred, but there have been several times when rain gauges have been swept away or damaged beyond useful.  Its beautiful lobby, bar, and dining area are under three feet of water.  We wish Herb and Ingrid a quick recovery. (more…)

2019 Russian River Flood

photos of 2019 Russian River floodMajor flooding along the Russian River in Sonoma County on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 prompted mandatory evacuations and left two towns accessible only by boat (see aerial photo of Guerneville). The river crested at 45.4 feet, the sixth largest flood in the area since recording such events began in 1879. At 33 feet the river crept onto the peewee golf course in Guerneville (lower right photo) and the Mirabel trailer park in Forestville. No big deal. At 39 feet River Road began to close near Hacienda Bridge (lower left photo-rescue workers motor near bridge) and the Triple R Resort in Guerneville flooded.   Hmmmm.  

At 41.5 feet, True Value hardware, Napa Auto Parts and Stumptown Brewery along the strip between Guerneville and Rio Nido had already accumulated over a foot of water. (more…)

New Year’s Eve Flood, 2005

photos of 2006 floodThe New Year’s Eve flood of 2005 crested at 41.8′ at the pedestrian bridge in Guerneville (upper photo).  The abandoned amusement park (across highway 116 from the peewee golf course) renders new meaning to the term “water slide” (lower left photo).

At the Northwood Golf Course in Monte Rio, a sign warns visitors what will happen if they do not use the “proper” facility (lower right photo).  Perhaps a certain New Year’s Eve reveler should have taken this as an omen.  A visitor to the area, he had rented both a vehicle and a house to celebrate the incoming of 2006.  But heavy rains blocked Redwood Drive, which ran to the lower reaches of the course.  Wanting desperately to feel the warmth of his cabin after an arduous night of bar hopping, the man motored past the second tee box, around the restrooms and started down the cart path, cruising parallel to the fifth fairway. (more…)

Monte Rio, 1986 Flood

photos of 1986 flood In Monte Rio, the flood of February 18, 1986 reached 48.56 feet, inundating much of the town.  The upper photo depicts the old Highland Dell resort alongside private residences, taking on as much as eight feet of water.  In the lower left photo is pictured a classic. VW buses are great for a number of things—camping, hitchhiking, parking at inspiration point—but fording through water, not so much.  You wonder if the driver will get help, or even contemplate returning as the sign above suggests?

The torrent brought both sadness and humor to the scene. One story relates how the Pink Elephant saloon in Monte Rio kept its doors open despite the presence of three feet of muddy water. Patrons continued to play a game of pool while in their canoes. Others sipped whiskies, feet dangling from bar stools into the river as if it was just another day in paradise. (more…)

1986 Russian River Flood

images of 1986 Russian River floodwet El Nino swept in a series of tropical storms, beginning February 13, 1986 leading into a three-day weekend capped by Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day. Two years earlier, workers had completed Warm Springs Dam, which held back the flows of Dry Creek, and created Lake Sonoma. Officials said it spared downstream residents what would have been an additional five vertical feet of flooding. But some say that premature releases from the dam increased the water levels (upper left photo).

Evacuees were offered temporary shelter at the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Guerneville, though it was abandoned when water crept too close. The shelter was then moved to St. Hubert’s Hall off Armstrong Woods Road and then to a higher elevation, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church. (more…)

Biggest Floods Ever?

images of 1955 and 1964 California floodsAccording to the National Weather Service, the floods of 1955 and 1964 were the largest ever along the Russian River.  The ’55 flood crested at 49.7 feet while the ’64 deluge peaked at 49.6 with the 1986 flood seeing the river rise to 48.56.  The torrents in the fifties and sixties both occurred during the Christmas holidays.

In 1955 two Pineapple Expresses arrived just four days apart, inundating Guerneville. The aerial view in the top photo is typical of major floods.  It is difficult for the human eye to distinguish between the Russian River, Main Street, and Armstrong Valley.  Locals recall Santa Claus visiting hungry families at the Hilton Park Family Campground (River Bend Park) in Forestville, hauling in dinner on a National Guard amphibian. (more…)

Earliest Recorded Russian River Floods:

images of early Russian River floodsThe upper photo shows #9 worst flood along the Russian River. It was in 1879, Guerneville, with the very first recording of such torrents. Damage was widespread.  The tracks of the San Francisco & Northern Pacific Railroad dropped into the stream just east of Rio Nido. The boilers and engines at Korbel sawmill were likewise under water. Part of Guerne Mill fell into Fife Creek (near today’s Saefway parking lot).

The lower left photo pictures the 1907 flood where it destroyed the Bohemian Bridge.  It is uncertain if this was the pedestrian bridge or the railroad trestle.  The later delivered San Francisco Bohemians from where the ninth tee box is today at Northwood Golf Course (built in 1928) to the top of a granite bluff & into the Grove. (more…)

Historic Flood Along the Russian River, 2019

NWS flood chart of 2019The flood on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 will go down in history as one of the worst along the Russian River.  But there are differences of opinion as to which historic floods rank first and second.  According to the Russian River Historical Society, the 1986 flood crested at 48.8′, making it numero uno.  This coincides with findings of the NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration).  The National Weather Service, however, states that the December 23, 1955 flood topped this at 49.7′ as well as the December 23, 1964 flood at 49.6′.  But both organizations agree that the recent deluge ranks sixth all-time.

The Russian River is 110 miles in length with its headwaters north of Ukiah and flows thru Alexander Valley, which was transformed last week into a six-foot-deep lake. (more…)