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Sonoma County Storm Clean-up and Follow-Up

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Sonoma County Storm Clean-up and Follow-Up

By Vesta Copestakes

So far, Hazardous Weather warnings are staying south of Sonoma County. San Francisco and Monterey Bay east are in the path of the upcoming storms, BUT as the week progresses, more storms are coming our way.  The first storm is expected mid-week with heavy rain and gusty wind, then lightening for a few days followed by the potential for another storm. The weather reports vary on this one, so we won't know until we get closer. Hopefully, the forecast for lighter weather will hold through all the events coming up next weekend. What locals along the flood areas are hoping is that the predicted ½ to ¾” of rain will be enough to wash silt away without flooding again. There’s a good chance just that will occur.  We’re still in the minor flooding zone at the moment.

Stay on top of CURRENT weather trends at the National Weather Service website - put in your zip code for LOCAL weather.

In the mean time, flood clean-up is still progressing. Over the weekend Sonoma County sent out dumpsters to gather and dispose of flood damaged material from furniture to appliances. Everything was sorted according to category and the supervisor I spoke with in Guerneville said he believed that at least 90% of the debris they got was, in fact, flood damage, not people taking advantage of free trash service.  The dumpsters will be back next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Jan 20 and 21. People can drop off debris until 3:30pm when the dumpsters need to head back to the dump before closing at 4, so keep that in mind for when you need to be at the designated sites.* There will be Hazardous materials disposal at the Guerneville Transfer Station on Saturday, Jan 21 (

dumpsters at Guerneville Park n Ride for flood debris


Friday, January 20th from 9:30-3pm there will be a river cleanup with Congressman Huffman in Guerneville, so people should meet in the Guerneville Plaza downtown with gloves and gear.

POSTPONED - Sunday, January 22nd a beach cleanup at Salmon Creek Beach: 11am-2pm is currently being coordinated with Sonoma Coast Surfrider and Clean River Alliance. Considering the three large NW swells arriving and the lack of a low enough tide and weather that it is best for safety considerations not to do a clean-up on the 22nd. Surfrider will continue to monitor and stage there and look for the best window of opportunity (tides/swell/weather) to do a volunteer effort there.

Goat Rock cleanup parkingSaturday, Feb 4th at Goat Rock State Beach 10am - 1pm hosted by Surfrider, B-Rad Foundation, Russian Riverkeeper. BRING gloves, closed toe shoes, windjacket (dress in layers), sunscreen, reusable water bottle.  B-Rad is providing pizza but folks who want anything else can bring a lunch.  Everyone will meet at the “North Goat parking lot” which is the one with restrooms/flushing toilet.  There will be A-frames at the entrance to Goat Rock Beach with arrows directing people to the lot.

Cea Higgins of Surfrider Foundation reported that there was a King Tide at the same time as flood water hit the Pacific, pushing debris onto higher ground. In many ways this was a blessing since much of the debris got trapped on shore instead of being flushed out to sea. Styrofoam is the most abundant source of debris, breaking down into small particles that birds mistake for food. Please contact Clean River Alliance and Surfrider Facebook pages for more information.

Structure damage needs to be reported for safety reasons, so if you suspect your home or business has suffered damage – there have been red-tagged buildings after this flood,  Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) is scheduling inspections.  Sonoma County is asking that residents and business owners report all incidences of damage to structures and real property over $1,000. Report damage on the web at Or call 2-1-1. SoCo Report It is also a cell phone app on iPhones and Androids.


Help for Flood Victims - Redwood Credit Union (RCU) is accepting financial donations to aid relief efforts and assist the victims of the recent storm flooding. One hundred percent of your donations will go directly to support relief efforts and those affected by the flooding. To donate to a fund that will go *directly* to relief efforts and to local residents impacted by the flood, go here: RCU’s Flood Relief Fund was created by RCU Community Fund, Inc. in partnership with Redwood Credit Union, the Press Democrat, and Sonoma County Supervisors James Gore and Lynda Hopkins.

Weekend weather cleared enough for people to make serious progress with clean-up. Volunteers working with Clean River Alliance and Riverkeeper spent the weekend cleaning, hauling debris for people with no trucks, and cleaning silt from pavement. Another crew cleaned the entire downtown of Guerneville so that the downtown would not be negatively impacted for too long.

Clean River Alliance volunteers clean silt off parking lot in Guerneville

North County Community Services in Healdsburg has been working in concert with Riverkeeper and Clean River Alliance to remove trash and debris from homeless camps along Dry Creek in Healdsburg and the Russian River. Numerous more stable camps have been receiving weekly trash service after an initial clean-up and the combination of clean-up and camp resident cooperation has resulted in vastly decreased debris in these waterways. Many of these camps needed to be evacuated as water rose into camps, so volunteers worked in the rain to remove people and their belongings in time to avoid total destruction.  Whatever could not be removed in time is either trapped in trees, covered in silt or washed down river.

homeless camp debris after flood

Raised home in flood areas with under house storageOn Saturday, Jan 13th, Supervisors James Gore and Lynda Hopkins hosted a gathering of community leaders from emergency services to those who have led community action toward solving debris accumulation that negatively impacts our waterways, especially in flood-prone areas. Previous floods brought much-needed redevelopment funding to these areas and the result was that many structures in the flood plain were raised so that living quarters are above the flood line. But that also created storage space under buildings. With ten years between floods, people moved a lot of material into those spaces that could not be removed in time. Some of that material is hazardous waste, such as motor oils, gasoline, fertilizers etc.

Road Closed signs placed to stop motoristsEmergency services continue to run into problems with people driving through marked flood zones. The cost of rescuing them, and the time it takes from other rescues, is both expensive and dangerous. Trying to find a way to convince people to obey flood warning signs continues to be a frustration and expense rural fire departments find challenging to meet. Discussion about charging people who disobey the signs was discussed, along with more forceful signage. Every flood results in property loss and expense that could have been prevented.  

Then there is the on-going task of convincing property owners in flood zones to keep their land free of potential waste and hazards. That is especially challenging in deep rural areas where people live hidden by trees, shrubbery, etc. along creeks. Abandoned vehicles and hoarding continue to be a problem that has no clear solution since the problem is on private property.

The good news is that PG&E kept electricity on throughout most of the county in part because they have been pro-active with keeping power lines free of potential hazards, like falling trees. 155,000 pounds of trash had already been removed along waterways so did NOT get caught in trees or go out to sea. The Plastic Bag Ban vastly reduced past damage of bags caught at flood level in waterside braches. Communication has improved as cell phone reception has increased throughout the county, so even when phone lines went down, communication continued. Volunteer and county efforts to restore creeks and waterways for free flowing water and fish habitat resulted in much less flooding where water used to get trapped.

landslide on Old Monte Rio Road caused by overwhelmed culverts

Although there is always room for improvement, this flood, although not at record levels, had much less damage and need for emergencies services than past floods. However, there are some landslides that took out rural roads that will be very expensive to repair. There are culverts that could have been kept clear but were clogged with debris that could have been cleared out prior to winter rains. But all-in-all, this winter storm resulted in much less damage that in previous years and that’s the result of pro-active efforts on the part of many people and county services.

Below is a list of places where flood debris will be collected on Jan 21 & 22 from 8:30am to 3:30 pm. We're in flood season so the more that can be taken care of now, the better we will be during any future flood events.

*  Flood Debris Collection Locations:

  • Guerneville Park n Ride 
    Intersection of Highway 116 & River Road 
    (Between Brookside Lane and Gabes Rock Road. 
    Parking lot is located on the north side of River Road)
  • Intersection of Neeley Road, Center Way and Guernewood Road
  • Willow Road
  • Alder Road
  • Intersection of Kingston Avenue and Bohemian Avenue
  • Intersection of Fir Road and Bohemian Highway

View map

Items that will be accepted:

  • General trash and other non-hazardous debris/materials originating from the flood event only.

Please do not mix hazardous and toxic materials with debris. No after-hours dumping will be permitted.

Items that will not be accepted: