With our first real storms of the season happening recently, the City of Rohnert Park urges residents to be aware of flooding danger and stay informed and prepared. Several areas of the county are at high risk for post fire related flooding. Large wildfires significantly reduce the amount of vegetation in an area, which usually absorbs rainfall and reduces runoff. Therefore, with the ground barren and unable to absorb water, wildfires have historically led to flash flooding and mudflow, exacerbated by the ash and debris left from the fires. According to the United States Geological Survey, wildfire-related flooding and increased runoff can continue for several years.
Fortunately, Cotati and Rohnert Park are largely not at risk for post fire mudslides and fire related flooding as much as other areas of the county. Nevertheless, during wet winters the local creeks tend to overflow which can be especially exacerbated this year.
“Rohnert Park is mostly not at risk,” says John McArthur, Public Works and Community Services Director. “In any hilly topography there could be issues so we are monitoring upstream from Cook Creek and watching for debris from the fires. We are also monitoring water quality.”
The city feels confident, given the preparations they did earlier in 2017 even before the fires hit, that Rohnert Park is well prepared for winter storms.
“We [Public Works and the Water Agency] did a lot of work last year clearing vegetation,” says McArthur. “Of course water can still exceed a channel’s capacity and there is not much that can be done about that, but we’re optimistic that the work we did will help [flooding this winter]. Copeland Creek often flooded around Commerce Avenue, between Enterprise Drive and Avram Avenue, so we’ve removed a large amount of sediment. That area of the creek was a choke point and we hope that will help the flooding in that area. We did most of that work in the summer into October, so now we mainly just need to respond to plugged storm drains.”
In addition to the preparations done earlier in 2017, having our rains coming so late in the season also helps to minimize potential flooding.
“For flooding reasons, it’s good that we’re getting rains so late,” says McArthur. “If it rains a lot in October and November, when the trees drop their leaves, all the dropped leaves can clog up the storm drains. But by now all the leaves have already been dropped and the heavy rains are not so impactful for street flooding.”
Nevertheless, flooding can still occur and the City of Rohnert Park is actively assisting residents in preparing for winter storms by offering free sandbags. The bags (limited to 25 per household) are available at Callinan Sports and Fitness Center on Snyder Lane and will be available 48 hours prior to a likely storm.
The city also urges residents to be prepared for potential storms and has a plethora of storm season information and resources listed on their website, rpcity.org. Some pre-storm suggestions include establishing an emergency plan for family and pets and having an emergency kit prepared, making roof repairs and fixing leaks, picking up leaf litter and yard clippings before they can clog storm drains and avoiding parking near streams or creeks.
“If you’re a homeowner, make sure your gutters are clean, your property is free of debris, and alert the city if you see any problems with a storm drain on your street,” says McArthur.
If residents are asked to evacuate during a storm, the city reminds citizens to disconnect all electrical appliances and turn off gas and water supplies before leaving. Avoid downed power lines and broken gas lines and drive with caution, avoiding flooded roads.
Rohnert Park reminds residents to stay informed through local public safety notifications and tune into KCBS 740, KGO 810, or local radio channels for emergency advisories and instructions.
For questions on sandbag distribution, please call the Public Works Department at (707) 588-3300.