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Storm Triggers Widespread Flooding, Downed Trees And Airport Havoc

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – An atmospheric river nearly 1,000 miles long slammed into the Bay Area early Sunday, bringing with it severe weather warnings, flooded roadways, downed trees and dozens of delayed flights at San Francisco International Airport.

The California Highway Patrol reported Sunday morning that flooding onto the roadway had closed northbound Highway 101 just north of Windsor.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued a litany of warnings and watches for residents from San Francisco to the Sierra including a flash flood warning for Sonoma County.

The potent storm battered Sonoma County, dumping more than 3 inches of rain in Santa Rosa, flooding local roadways, triggering a flash flood warning and forcing crews to use a rubber boat to rescue of a family near Pengrove.

The National Weather Service said the Willow Brook at Pengrove Park crested over its 58.7-foot flood stage at 62.9 feet at around 8 a.m. with heavy rain still pounding the area.

Along the Old Redwood Highway, a firefighters rescued two adults stranded by flood waters in a mobile home after they first refused to leave an hour earlier. The water rose approx 2 1/2 feet in 45 minutes, causing them to call 911 a second time.

Meanwhile, the weather issued a flash flood warning for residents living near creeks and rivers for several Sonoma County communities including Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Cotati and Sonoma.

The California Highway Patrol also reported Sunday morning that flooding onto the roadway had closed northbound Highway 101 just north of Windsor. Flood waters also forced Caltrans to close Highway 128 North of Calistoga as it headed from Napa into Sonoma County.

The National Weather Service said stream gauges around the county had detected rapidly rising waters in local waterways. Of particular concern was in the area of Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Creek in Sonoma Valley.

By 9:30 a.m., forecasters reported, Laguna de Santa Rosa had soared over its 82-foot flood stage to 86.67 feet.

Nearby, Copeland Creek also went over its banks cresting at 9.3 feet -- more than 2 feet over flood stage.

In Rohnert Park, Hinebaugh Creek went over its banks trapping two cars in deep water near Redwood Dr. and the Rohnert Park Expressway.

Flooding was also predicted for the Russian River with the waterway expected to crest above its flood stage at 35.2 feet in Guerneville.

Flood warnings were issued for the Carmel River at Robles Del Rio, the Guadalupe River near the Alamaden Expressway and the Napa River near St. Helena.

The weather service predicted the Napa River would crest at 18.9 feet by Sunday afternoon, well above the 16-foot flood stage.

At that level, forecasters said, major flooding could occur.

Meanwhile, the Guadalupe River was projected to crest just above its flood stage at 14.2 feet on Sunday afternoon, triggering minor flooding.

Forecasters said the Carmel River would top its flood stage, cresting at 9.2 feet on Sunday night. At that level, the weather service said, the Highway 1 bridge in Carmel could be impacted.

In the Sierra, a forecast that included high winds, heavy rain at the lower elevations and blizzard-like conditions on the top runs forced several Sierra ski resorts to close for the day Sunday.

Sierra-At-Tahoe, Bear Valley, Northstar and Alpine Meadows all announced they would be closed Sunday while Squaw Valley announced limited operations on the lower elevation ski runs.

The stormy weekend weather had already claimed one victim.

A woman was killed Saturday morning after a tree fell on her as she was walking through a San Ramon golf course, according to fire officials with the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.


At around 10:55 a.m., officers responded to a report of a medical emergency at the Canyon Lakes Golf Course at 640 Bollinger Canyon Way, Battalion Chief Dan McNamara said.

The victim was walking when a tree somehow fell, striking her. She was taken to the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, where she died a short while later, according to McNamara.

No one else was injured.

Saturated soil and gusty winds also toppled over several trees in the Bay Area, knocking out power to local residents and blocking roadways.

In San Francisco, Bob Purcell stood outside his home in San Francisco's Laurel Heights home Sunday and just shook his head.

Several feet away was Purcell's gray sedan, crushed under the weight of a massive tree that came tumbling down during Sunday's blustery winter storm.

"I heard a large crack and then someone outside yelled out an expletive," he said. "I ran outside and it was my car."

The tree was one of several that have toppled over as San Francisco has been lashed by one of the most potent winter storms in a decade.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit district was forced to halt service between its Balboa Park and Daly City stations after a tree toppled onto the tracks Sunday morning.

A bus bridge was set up to shuttle passengers to other BART stations.

In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, a homeless man escaped serious injury when a tree limb weakened by the weekend storm toppled over on top of him as he slept.

San Francisco Fire Battalion Chief Steve Bokura said his agency got a call reporting a tree limb trapping a man in the park at around 6:30 a.m.

"Luckily a gardener was coming through here, checking the trees (because of the weekend storm) and heard someone screaming for help," the battalion chief said.

Bokura said his crew had to carefully cut away the massive tree limb to free the homeless man.

The man was unharmed by the branch, but was taken to the hospital suffering from hypothermia.

"He's a very lucky man," Bokura said.

At San Francisco International Airport, the stormy weather forced the 258 flights to be delayed and 754 cancellations on Saturday. An equal number was expected on Sunday.

While the brunt of the storm was expected to pass through the Bay Area by late Sunday afternoon, forecasters predicted the wet weather would stretch into the coming week.

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