The latest “pineapple express” to hit Wednesday afternoon could bring 4 to 8 inches of rain in just 48 hours — and Petaluma police are warning residents to prepare by setting up sandbags, cleaning gutters and checking with neighbors.
“Multiple atmospheric river events will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the entire North Bay region this weekend,” police said in a Tuesday afternoon warning. The already saturated ground could lead to flash floods, downed trees, power outages and “rapid waterlogging”, they said.
To minimize storm damage, city and county crews from public works, fire and police departments are on standby Tuesday and ready to respond Wednesday to “road closures, blocked storm drains and storm-related debris on streets and sidewalks.” Police said.
Among the tips provided by local authorities, residents are advised to stock up on supplies such as water and electricity, cleaning nearby gutters and storm drains and setting up sandbags as needed. Police recommend that people in flood-prone areas shut off electricity and gas early (see sidebar), and “check on your neighbors, friends and family — especially those who might be vulnerable in an emergency.”
Police also advised residents to “avoid unnecessary travel”. If travel is necessary, use extreme caution by slowing down and allowing extra space for other vehicles on the road. If the street lights aren’t on, treat intersections as 4-way stops — and watch for downed power lines and call 911 to report them.
“Most deaths during storms occur in a vehicle,” police said. “Don’t try to drive through flooded areas,” which make them appear deeper than they are.
In addition to the heavy rain, this latest atmospheric river is forecast to bring winds from the south at 20-30 mph, with gusts of 50 mph and 60 mph above 1,000 feet. Along the coast, gusts up to 70 mph are possible, according to the National Weather Service.
A flood watch has been issued for much of the state, and a high wind warning will go into effect at 4 a.m. Wednesday and last until 10 a.m. Thursday for most of the Bay Area.
Sonoma County and surrounding counties will be at high risk for flooding, mudslides and downed trees and power lines this week as rainfall rates reach 1 inch per hour.
The heavy rain is expected to end by Thursday afternoon. Then, after a gap of 24 hours, a weaker but still stronger storm is expected to begin on Friday night.
Press Democrat reporter Madison Smallstick contributed to this report.