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It's finally feeling like winter again (w/video)

  • Eric Sturtevant looks over the slide on Ft. Ross Road near Cazadero on Saturday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

A drenching rain that finally made it feel like honest-to-goodness winter dumped more than half a foot of rain Saturday on the wettest areas of northwest Sonoma County, prompting flooding of low-lying roadways and raising Russian River flows to near seasonal levels at last.

The moisture-laden storm toppled trees around the county and washed out a section of Fort Ross Road near Cazadero, causing a chunk of hillside to slide 200 feet or more downhill and closing the road for what will likely be months, fire officials said.

But the rain, overall, was a welcome reminder of wet winters past and raised hopes for continuing precipitation before spring arrives.

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Just overnight, an additional surge was expected to drop up to several more inches of rain, prompting another flash-flood warning in effect until Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said. Two more rainstorms are on the horizon later this week.

The staff at the Sonoma County Water Agency cautioned, however, against the temptation to forget the region is still well-behind season normal and water-poor in the grand scheme of things.

“It's a good soaking, but we need a lot more,” water agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said. “It's not a drought buster.”

The 3.34 inches of rain recorded for Santa Rosa for the 24 hours from 4 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday amounted to nearly half of what's fallen to date this season — 7.64 inches.

That's only a third of the 23.43 inches that's considered seasonal average by this date, said Bob Benjamin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

It would take another 6 inches to 7 inches just to reach rainfall totals from 1977, “the worst drought year we remember,” water agency representative Ann DuBay said.

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