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Thousands of homes, businesses flooded as water levels on Russian River in California begin to recede

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
March 01, 2019, 2:36:25 AM EST

Major flooding along the Russian River in Sonoma County, California, has prompted evacuations and left two towns accessible only by boat.

County officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Russian River area, following a massive mudslide near Monte Rio on Tuesday.

A state of emergency was declared for Sonoma, Amador, Glenn, Lake and Mendocino Counties on Thursday following the destructive flooding and mudslides.

Following relentless rainfall, the Russian River quickly surpassed major flood stage early Wednesday. On Wednesday night, the river exceeded 45 feet - nearly 14 feet above flood stage. The river is now receding.

A slow-moving storm moved into the West Coast, and brought heavy rainfall that has occurred over northern and central California [Monday and Tuesday], according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait.

(AP Photo/Michael Short)

Martin McCarthy and his son Thomas McCarthy, 10, look at homes flooded by the Russian River from their canoe as they paddle through a neighborhood in Forestville, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

(Facebook photo/Sonoma County Sheriff's Office)

Floodwaters surrounded homes and businesses in Guerneville, California, on Feb. 27, 2019.

(Twitter photo/@sonomasheriff)

The town of Monte Rio, California, was inaccessible on Wednesday Feb. 27, due to flooding.

(Facebook Photo/Sonoma County Sheriff's Office)

Downtown Guerneville was inundated by floodwaters on Feb. 27, 2019.

(AP Photo/Michael Short)

Amanda Hamner looks out at flood waters from the Russian River surrounding her home in Forestville, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The still rising Russian River was engorged by days of rain from western U.S. storms.

(AP Photo/Michael Short)

Cheryl Hughes looks out of her window at her van submerged in the flood waters of the Russian River in Forestville, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

(Photo/Stephen Kirkish)

(Photo/Stephen Kirkish)

(Photo/Richard Lopez)

(Photo/Richard Lopez)

(Photo/Sonoma Sheriff)

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit was in the Guerneville area to help rescue people.

(Photo/Sonoma Sheriff)

Roads were blocked off due to flooding in the area.



(Image via Twitter/NWSBayArea)

Russian River at Healdsburg looking toward the Healdsburg Avenue bridge at 2 p.m. PST on Feb. 26.

(Image via Twitter/Sonomasheriff)

Photos from Guerneville, California, showing Russian River continuously rising.

(Image via Twitter/Sonomasheriff)

Photos from the Monte Rio Bridge in Guerneville, California, showing Russian River continuously rising.

(Image via Twitter/Sonomasheriff)

Photos from Guerneville, California, showing Russian River continuously rising.

(Image via Instagram/chpsantarosa)

Flooding on Alexander Valley Road and West Soda Rock near Russian River.

(Image via Twitter/Sonomasheriff)

Photos from Guerneville, California, showing Russian River continuously rising.

(Photo/California Office of Emergency Services)

(Photo/California Office of Emergency Services)

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office urged people to "evacuate now if you live near the Russian River."

The sheriff's office said early Wednesday morning that all roads leading into the community of Guerneville are flooded.

"You cannot get into or out of town," officials said. "Guerneville is officially an island."

About 4,500 people live in the town and about half have evacuated, according to the Associated Press. Both Monte Rio and Guerneville are currently cut off from neighboring communities. At least 2,000 homes and businesses were flooded, the AP reported.

One woman suffering a serious medical issue had to be airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital on Wednesday, the sheriff's office said.

As water levels dropped on the river, so did the calls for assistance. The Guerneville Fire Department said it had no calls for rescues during the overnight hours on Thursday.

The National Guard was called to Guerneville in response to the major flooding.

A mudslide on Bohemian Highway has closed the roadway in both directions near Monte Rio, limiting driving options for those looking to evacuate due to flooding along the Russian River, officials said.

People were caught in that mudslide and workers helped to free them, according to ABC 7 news.

Bohemian Highway is one of two routes available for those evacuating. The only way out of the area now is through Highway 116, which runs along the swelling river.

According to NWS Bay Area, Santa Rosa obliterated the one-day rainfall record for the date with 5.66 inches. The old record was 1.82 inches set 100 years ago in 1919.

According to Strait, it is likely that even more rain fell in the mountains in Mendocino County, where the headwaters of the Russian River are located.

Dozens of mudslides were reported in Sonoma and Plumas counties through Tuesday night, many of which blocked lanes or entire portions of Highways 1, 116, 128 and 70.

A mobile home park in Shasta County had to be evacuated due to rising floodwaters. Many water rescues were executed as motorists found themselves stranded in as much as a foot of flowing water.

California to be battered by another vigorous storm this weekend
3 long-term health dangers that flooding can pose to affected communities
How to stay safe if you encounter wildlife after a flood

Another storm is set to batter the state from Friday into the weekend. AccuWeather meteorologists expect the heaviest rain to fall farther south.

"The first precipitation associated with the weekend storm should move onshore Friday night, with the bulk of the moisture streaming into the state on Saturday," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott.

"Areas between San Francisco and Los Angeles are likely to receive the highest rainfall amounts, on the order of 1-3 inches," Elliott said. "So while Southern California escaped much of the weather from the Monday to Wednesday storm, the storm from Friday night to Saturday is likely to pack quite a punch."

To check Sonoma County road closures, click here.

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