The Latest: Northern California river hits flood stage

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on storms across the West (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

A river in Northern California’s wine country has reached flood stage and forecasters expect it to rise even more as a winter storm lashes the region.

The National Weather Service says the Russian River in Sonoma County topped 32 feet Tuesday evening and it could crest at more than 46 feet by Wednesday night.

The river has repeatedly flooded during heavy rains but this is the highest the waters have risen in more than two decades.

Authorities earlier ordered thousands of people in two dozen communities to evacuate. The order covers a 35-mile (56-kilometer) stretch of the river.

Several other Northern California creeks and rivers are expected to crest their banks before the storm eases out of the region. Meanwhile, heavy snow has prompted the closure of several roads in the Sierra Nevada.


5:45 p.m.

Authorities in Northern California’s wine country have ordered mandatory evacuations for two dozen small communities along a rising river in Sonoma County.

The order issued Tuesday covers a 35-mile (56-kilometer) stretch of the Russian River, which is expected to flood Tuesday night before reaching a height of 46 feet (14 meters) Wednesday night.

The town of Guerneville is the largest affected area with about 4,500 people.


4:55 p.m.

A search and rescue team has reached three snowmobilers stranded in the backcountry of northwestern Wyoming in a heavy snowstorm.

The Teton County Sheriff’s Office says the snowmobilers from Denver got stranded Monday on Togwotee (TOH-guh-tee) Pass northeast of Jackson and had to spend the night.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that rescuers reached the group late Tuesday afternoon after spending hours trying to reach them on snowmobiles and finally on skis.

The three were unhurt.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr says the three went down a hill that they couldn’t get back up. He says once rescuers got near the area on snowmobiles they could reach the three only by skiing down the hill.


3:25 p.m.

Damage caused by a powerful storm that hit the West caused authorities to close a north-south roadway in southern Oregon.

SF Gate reports that Highway 101 was left crumbling and cracking. The extensive damage prompted officials to close off the highway about 17 miles north of the California border.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said the damage was caused when the roadway “abruptly shifted” during a weekend storm.

Crews hoped to have a single lane open at some point Tuesday.


12:15 p.m.

Authorities in Northern California are urging people to evacuate homes and businesses in the community of Guerneville because a river is expected to start overflowing and cause major flooding.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office says the Russian River is predicted to start overflowing Tuesday night when it reaches 32 feet (10 meters).

Officials say the river will crest Wednesday night at 46 feet (14 meters) in the community north of San Francisco.

At the River Inn Grill, workers were preparing by putting perishables on high shelves in storage rooms.

Manager Andre Vazquez says the one-story building would be close to submerged if the river reaches hits 46 feet.

Guerneville has a population of about 4,500.


11:47 a.m.

A central Idaho home has been damaged in an avalanche.  

No one was at the home in the central city of Hailey when the damage happened and it wasn’t discovered until Tuesday morning.

The avalanche sent snow, debris and trees through the windows of the house. Debris from the slide also blocked the Big Wood River until the water cut a pathway through the snow.  

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center says the risk of avalanches in the region is high and the center has issued an avalanche warning for Blaine and Custer counties lasting through Wednesday morning.

Officials also closed Highway 75 near Ketchum because of an avalanche near the Galena summit, and other slides have also been reported in the region.


11:45 a.m.

Residents in western Montana are digging out from more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow as a winter storm creates treacherous driving conditions in the southern part of the state.  

Missoula set a new daily snowfall record with 8.6 inches (22 centimeters) on Monday, but that was overshadowed by the totals in the Bitterroot Valley: 26 inches (66 centimeters) in Stevensville and 25 inches (64 centimeters) in Hamilton.  

In southwestern Montana, snow mixed with 40 mph (64 kph) wind gusts Tuesday. Officials shut down a 15-mile (24-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 15 near the Idaho border, and eastbound traffic on Interstate 90 was halted east of Reed Point because of an accident.  

The Billings Gazette reports state transportation officials have restricted travel on the ice-and-snow-covered roadways to emergency traffic only from Reed Point west to Three Forks and from Big Timber north to Judith Gap.


10:45 a.m.

Forecasters say a storm stretching from California to Montana could as drop as much as 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow on high elevations of the Sierra Nevada, a prediction that’s down from an original forecast of 8 feet (2.4 meters).

Winds gusting in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) over ridgetops are likely to create whiteout conditions on Tuesday.

Nearly 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow fell at several Lake Tahoe area ski resorts Monday night and early Tuesday and a winter storm warning was in effect for the Tahoe area through Thursday morning.

Lake Tahoe officials urged residents to clear roofs of snow and ice after falling ice ruptured a natural gas line and injured a child. Officials say the child was treated last weekend at a hospital for a leg injury after a 150-pound (68-kilogram) icicle nearly crushed him.

The National Weather Service says travel could be very difficult to impossible Tuesday night and Wednesday morning with snowfall rates of up to 3 inches (8 centimeters) per hour.


7:15 a.m.

A winter storm dumping rain and snow from California to Montana is drenching an already soaked Northern California, where authorities are advising residents that several rivers and creeks could overflow.

North of San Francisco, Sonoma County officials say they will activate an emergency center at 8 a.m. Tuesday because of threats of flash floods and mudslides.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chairman David Rabbit says in a statement it is “time to locate emergency kits.”

The National Weather Service says some rivers and streams could hit flood stage by late Tuesday. It issued several flood watches for Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties.

Sonoma County officials issued a flood warning, saying the Russian River near the community of Guerneville is expected to hit flood stage early Wednesday.

In neighboring Napa County, the Napa River in San Helena could also overflow.


12 a.m.

A fierce winter storm slamming the western U.S. is expected to bring blasting winds, rain and feet of snow to California through Wednesday.

The storm already has toppled trees, closed roads and triggered power outages from Oregon to Montana.

In the Sierra Nevada along the California-Nevada line, the National Weather Service has issued a storm warning, with up to 8 feet (2.44 meters) of snow at higher elevations and winds gusting to 140 mph (225 kph) over ridgetops.

In the Lake Tahoe area, several mountain highways have been closed because of spinouts or avalanche concerns.

Flood and flash flood watches are in effect for the Sacramento area and the San Francisco Bay Area and forecasters warn that the Napa and Russian rivers are likely to overflow their banks by Wednesday.

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