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Evacuations ordered as Russian River hits flood stage amid pounding storm

An atmospheric river rainstorm pounded Northern California on Tuesday, and officials are saying the Russian River will hit flood stage.

The National Weather Service said the new storm produced more than a foot of rain in the hills above Healdsburg in Sonoma County.

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Sonoma County officials have ordered people living in about two dozen areas near the river to evacuate, noting that the river is forecast to exceed flood stage — 32 feet — at 6 p.m. It’s expected to crest at 46.1 feet at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“Evacuate now,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in an alert shortly before 4 p.m.

Authorities were opening shelters at the following locations:

  • Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 282 S. High St. in Sebastopol.

  • Sonoma County Fairgrounds Grace Pavilion at 1350 Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa.

Evacuees can take a free shuttle from the Guerneville Veterans War Memorial at 16320 Church St. in Guerneville.

As of Tuesday morning, the storm had drenched Sacramento with 1.26 inches of rain in 24 hours. Venado, a community in Sonoma County, had received more than 9.5 inches in the same period, with more on the way.

With so much rain, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials have warned residents of the potential for flooding from the Russian River near Guerneville.

The storm also is expected to drop 2 to 8 feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada through Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. This comes amid what has already been a snowy period for ski resorts. At Mammoth Mountain, one ski area reported getting as much as 24 feet of fresh powder in the last month.

Officials plan to close a portion of Highway 1 in Big Sur at 5 p.m. Tuesday in advance of the storm. The California Department of Transportation closes the road's most vulnerable slide areas when significant storms are predicted to hit the region. Closures will be in effect at Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek, near the border of Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, until the rain ends and crews can inspect for damage.

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