MENDOCINO Co, CA, 3/13/23 — Mendocino County’s very wet winter continues, with more rain expected throughout the county Monday and Tuesday and the potential for more precipitation next weekend. Our heaviest rains will come at the beginning of the week, and have led to a Hazardous Weather Outlook, a Wind Advisory, and a Flood Watch from the National Weather Service Eureka (NWS) extending through Tuesday night.
The Russian River at Hopland, which passed its flood stage Friday leading to the closure of Highway 175, is forecast to flood again Tuesday. Water levels are expected to reach 15.7 feet, with flooding into the roadway beginning at 15 feet.
Other Mendocino County rivers, such as the Navarro and Garcia, are currently not forecast to flood in our next bout of rains. But NWS meteorologist Doug Boushey cautions that “it’s certainly something to watch out for.”
Many in Mendocino County have been concerned that our unusually large snowpack from late February snow could have an impact on flooding. It’s “really difficult to gauge” which areas could be most impacted, Boushey said. He advised that people remain vigilant around any low-lying areas, especially those near waterways, as “the potential for flooding exists.”
From Willits northward, flooding exacerbated by snowmelt is more likely, Boushey explained. But he also said the snow hasn’t heightened flooding in Mendocino County as much as people may have feared.
“There has to be some contribution due to snowmelt,” he said. “But I think it’s kind of a misnomer that all the snow will melt rapidly, and then we’re going to have a Truckee River flooding event like we had on New Year’s Day in 1997.”
NWS continues to monitor the August Complex burn scar, Boushey said, but debris flows there are more likely when upwards of one inch of precipitation falls each hour, such as in a large thunderstorm. That amount of accumulation is unlikely, he explained.
As always, NWS urges drivers to turn around if they encounter flood waters. In Boushey’s words: “If you see a flooded road, unless you’ve got a monster truck or something, you probably shouldn’t be driving across it.”
Mendocino County residents can also expect a blustery week, according to NWS’ forecast. The weather service has issued a Wind Advisory across the Mendocino coast, northwestern, southwestern, and southeastern interiors, and both northern and southern Lake County. South wind gusts of between 20 and 30 miles per hour are forecast through 5 p.m. Tuesday, with gusts up to 55 miles per hour possible. Boushey said those larger gusts are more likely in southwestern and northern Mendocino.
“Use extra caution when driving, especially if operating a high-profile vehicle,” NWS cautioned in the advisory. “Secure outdoor objects.”
NWS also continues to update its forecasts as more is known about a given storm system. Find the forecast for your specific location via the NWS Eureka site.
“We put out a big area of a watch, but you don’t always know until after the storm starts to form,” Boushey explained. “And then you have more finer scale detail, as far as the warnings.”
Boushey said the NWS Eureka office has been inundated with calls, coordinating with emergency services and other agencies in Northern California. He is looking forward to a respite in the forecast mid-week, and said the later rainfall is likely to be lighter. Overall, it’s been an “anomalous” winter.
“February was an abnormally cold and snowy month, and that even went into March,” Boushey said. “It’s shattering my belief that we usually don’t get snow in March.”
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.