Animated Loading
Having trouble loading this page?
Get help troubleshooting.

Flood threat prompts Northern California evacuations

Published
Lisa Laroe of Creswell, carries a propane bottle to her vehicle as other people lineup at the 76 gas station Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Creswell, Ore. The station has had a steady stream of people all day filling gas tanks and propane bottles as another snow storm moves through the Willamette Valley. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of people in Northern California's wine country were ordered to evacuate Tuesday evening shortly before a river reached flood stage as a winter storm dumped torrential rain and heavy snow that shut down major mountain highways.

Authorities said evacuations were ordered for about 4,000 people in and around Guerneville, which is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

By 6 p.m., the river north of San Francisco — which is prone to flooding in heavy rain — had topped 32 feet (10 meters) and forecasters predicted it would peak at about 46 feet (14 meters) by Wednesday evening, which would be the highest level since 1995.

Earlier Tuesday at the River Inn Grill in Guerneville, workers were preparing by putting perishables on high shelves in storage rooms.

But manager Andre Vazquez said the one-story building could be largely submerged that if the river reaches 46 feet.

"If it gets to 46 feet, it's done. There is no way to prepare for that," Vazquez said.

Guerneville often floods during heavy rain and people seemed nonchalant Tuesday about the threat, said Joseph Chung, whose parents own the Koala's Fine Food restaurant.

"A couple of weeks ago people were using kayaks to get to their mailbox," Chung said. "If it gets really bad, we'll get out."

Earlier in the day, a mudslide near Monte Rio near Guerneville trapped a man and a woman before they were rescued, messy but unharmed.

"Well I fell into the mud when the tree fell over the top of me. It happened so fast you don't even know, you know?" Kear Koch told KGO-TV.

The Napa River and some waterways in Mendocino County also were expected to top flood stages.

The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings and flash flood watches for the San Francisco Bay Area and many parts of the Sacramento area, lasting into Thursday morning.

Relentless rain forced the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights in San Francisco and the city of Santa Rosa received a record 5.66 inches of rain, making it the wettest day for the date since at least 1902.

In the Sierra Nevada, the California Department of Transportation reported that a maintenance yard above 6,000 feet had received 30 inches of snow along on Tuesday.

Several mountain and foothill roads were repeatedly closed because of whiteout conditions or to clear trucks and cars that spun out on the slippery pavement.

Interstate 80, a major road that winds over the Donner Summit, was to remain closed into Wednesday morning for about 50 miles, from Colfax to the Nevada state line, because of poor conditions and snow removal operations.

The storm also briefly left more than 20,000 customers without electricity in Northern California and Nevada.

The fierce weather was driven by a river of atmospheric moisture stretching from Hawaii. It already has barreled through other parts of the West, toppling trucks and trees, triggering power outages and closing roads and schools from Oregon to Montana.

It is the latest in a string that has dumped record levels of snow and rain this winter in the western U.S.

A person huddles under an umbrella as rain falls in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
High winds caused havoc for a man using an umbrella as rain pelted Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
High winds from a fierce winter storm on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nevada. Winds were gusting up to 110 mph on the top of the Sierra along the California-Nevada line where as much as 8 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains above Lake Tahoe over the next three days. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).
Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. A fierce winter storm packing winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and predicted to bring as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow to the Sierra Nevada barreled into the West Coast on Monday, toppling trucks, triggering power outages and temporarily closing the major highway near Reno. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Ivan Mancinelli of Vancouver walks his Boxer, Nandy, in Felida, Wash., on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.
Ivan Mancinelli of Vancouver walks his Boxer, Nandy, in Felida, Wash., on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. "I love it," he said. "I'm hoping that it'll keep snowing." Mancinelli is a psychology professor at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore., and was still waiting to hear if the snow caused cancelations for his evening classes. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian via AP)
A man pushes his bicycle and cart along 13th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, after several inches of snow fell in the area. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
A man pushes his bicycle and cart along 13th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, after several inches of snow fell in the area. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. A fierce winter storm packing winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and predicted to bring as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow to the Sierra Nevada barreled into the West Coast on Monday, toppling trucks, triggering power outages and temporarily closing the major highway near Reno. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. A fierce winter storm packing winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and predicted to bring as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow to the Sierra Nevada barreled into the West Coast on Monday, toppling trucks, triggering power outages and temporarily closing the major highway near Reno. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Nevada Department of Transportation officials tend to a rolled over high profile vehicle on the Interstate 580 south of Reno, Nev., on Monday, Feb 25, 2019. Winds gusting up to 80 mph toppled trucks, downed power lines and temporarily closed part of a highway south of Reno on Monday as another big winter storm started blowing into the Sierra Nevada where as much as 8 feet of snow is possible in the upper elevations above Lake Tahoe. (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)
Nevada Department of Transportation officials tend to a rolled over high profile vehicle on the Interstate 580 south of Reno, Nev., on Monday, Feb 25, 2019. Winds gusting up to 80 mph toppled trucks, downed power lines and temporarily closed part of a highway south of Reno on Monday as another big winter storm started blowing into the Sierra Nevada where as much as 8 feet of snow is possible in the upper elevations above Lake Tahoe. (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)
A person huddles under an umbrella as rain falls in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A person huddles under an umbrella as rain falls in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Lane Transit District workers try to free a bus stuck on 11th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, February 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools, including the University of Oregon were closed. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Lane Transit District workers try to free a bus stuck on 11th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, February 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools, including the University of Oregon were closed. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Dan Burgess clears snow from his truck before heading to work in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, February 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools, including the University of Oregon were closed. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Dan Burgess clears snow from his truck before heading to work in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, February 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools, including the University of Oregon were closed. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
High winds caused havoc for a man using an umbrella as rain pelted Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
High winds caused havoc for a man using an umbrella as rain pelted Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
August McClain is separated from his sled as he flies through the air after hitting a jump while sledding down 28th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools throughout the region were canceled give thousands kids the day to play. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
August McClain is separated from his sled as he flies through the air after hitting a jump while sledding down 28th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools throughout the region were canceled give thousands kids the day to play. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. A fierce winter storm packing winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and predicted to bring as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow to the Sierra Nevada barreled into the West Coast on Monday, toppling trucks, triggering power outages and temporarily closing the major highway near Reno. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Women walk in the rain toward a federal court building in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. A fierce winter storm packing winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and predicted to bring as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow to the Sierra Nevada barreled into the West Coast on Monday, toppling trucks, triggering power outages and temporarily closing the major highway near Reno. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Lisa Laroe of Creswell, carries a propane bottle to her vehicle as other people lineup at the 76 gas station Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Creswell, Ore. The station has had a steady stream of people all day filling gas tanks and propane bottles as another snow storm moves through the Willamette Valley. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via AP)
Lisa Laroe of Creswell, carries a propane bottle to her vehicle as other people lineup at the 76 gas station Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Creswell, Ore. The station has had a steady stream of people all day filling gas tanks and propane bottles as another snow storm moves through the Willamette Valley. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via AP)
Cole Porter flies through the air after hitting a jump while sledding down 28th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools throughout the region were canceled give thousands kids the day to play. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Cole Porter flies through the air after hitting a jump while sledding down 28th Street in Eugene, Ore., early Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 after several inches of snow fell in area. Schools throughout the region were canceled give thousands kids the day to play. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
High winds from a fierce winter storm on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nevada. Winds were gusting up to 110 mph on the top of the Sierra along the California-Nevada line where as much as 8 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains above Lake Tahoe over the next three days. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).
High winds from a fierce winter storm on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nevada. Winds were gusting up to 110 mph on the top of the Sierra along the California-Nevada line where as much as 8 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains above Lake Tahoe over the next three days. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).
High winds from a fierce winter storm on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nevada. Winds were gusting up to 110 mph on the top of the Sierra along the California-Nevada line where as much as 8 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains above Lake Tahoe over the next three days. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).
High winds from a fierce winter storm on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, snapped a tree that broke the top of a wall at an apartment complex in Sparks, Nevada. Winds were gusting up to 110 mph on the top of the Sierra along the California-Nevada line where as much as 8 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains above Lake Tahoe over the next three days. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).