By MARY CALLAHAN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The sun came back out Monday but four days worth of rainfall continued pouring into the region’s reservoirs, raising Lakes Mendocino and Sonoma from three to four feet, with days left to go — maybe a week, even — before the water levels were expected to crest.
Despite the strong storm and heavy runoff, local government officials said drought measures, including mandatory cuts for water users in Cloverdale, Healdsburg and Willits, were still on. The Sonoma County Water Agency’s request for voluntary 20 percent cuts for its municipal contractors, covering most other cities in the county, also remains in place.
Four-day rainfall totals for Sonoma County included 15.41 inches in Cazadero and 11.70 inches in Guerneville, according to AccuWeather.
Santa Rosa received 6.46 inches over the same four days, AccuWeather reported.
Typically, the runoff from this kind of storm would take about a week to find its way into local reservoirs, though thirsty ground from months of dry weather would absorb a large amount first, water officials said.
But already, the storage in the two reservoirs had risen more than 12,000 acre feet beyond what lay behind the dams as of Friday, said Mike Dillabough, chief of the Operations and Readiness Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s San Francisco District.
Water flowing into Lake Mendocino, measured Friday morning at just 31 cubic feet per second, had increased by a factor of 32 over the weekend, measuring 996 cfs on Monday morning, Dillabough said.
At Lake Sonoma, the in-flow rate rose from 168 cfs to 1,462 cfs over the four-day period, he said.
“That’s good,” Dillabough said. “That means a lot more water’s coming in.”
Lake Mendocino was at nearly 41 percent capacity Monday at 7 p.m., up from almost 37 percent Thursday. Lake Sonoma was just shy of 68 percent capacity, up from 66 percent Thursday.
“We need at least six more storms like this,” Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said.
The expanding reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa would suggest a few days break might be beneficial, however.
Even as creeks and rivers around the area were beginning to recede, the Laguna, a 14-mile waterway that empties into the Russian River, remained a flood zone that overflowed pastures and oak woodlands in the rural area between west Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, turning Sanford Road near Occidental Road into a water trap passable only by some four-wheel drive vehicles.
At the entrance to Sebastopol, several picnic tables at Village Park were under water and the Laguna’s surface was just inches from the underside of the Highway 12 bridge outside town.
Outdoor enthusiasts took advantage of the swollen waterway to paddle above the thick ludwigia that usually clogs the area. Among the paddlers was retired firefighter Gary Alexander, who launched his kayak just behind his house at the end of Hall Road, where the Laguna crept toward higher ground.
Nearby, Santa Rosa resident Michelle Campana, who usually commutes to Sebastopol via Sanford Road, stopped with her son to take some photographs.
“It’s so amazing to have a flood in the middle of a drought,” Campana observed. “Only in California.”
The four-day storm wreaked some of the usual winter havoc around the region, factoring in car crashes, downed trees, power outages, collapsed roadways and at least one creek rescue.
Still, municipal officials said they welcomed the deluge and were hoping for more.
“This was a great storm, like we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood, who keeps his own rainfall gauges. “It doesn’t get us anywhere close to catching up to where we need to be.”
The necessity for more rain amid so much wetness underscored the dire situation for the region and the state as a whole. On average, Santa Rosa should have received nearly two-thirds of its seasonal rainfall by now. So far, the city has received less than a third of its 32.22-inch average.
Storms that once looked to provide another local dowsing later this week are now forecast to veer too far north to be of much help to the North Bay.
A 30 percent chance of rain was forecast for Wednesday into Thursday, and again on Saturday into Sunday, said Anderson, the National Weather Service meteorologist.
If it rains, he said, it’s expected to be “only light stuff.”
But even a meteorologist can join the hopeful chorus.
“There’s still plenty of time,” Anderson said. “We have about two months to make up the deficit. Anything’s possible.”
Staff writers Clark Mason and Glenda Anderson contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.