River, creeks stay within banks in city of Napa

Officials report ‘trees down all over the place,’ but no major damage
2012-12-02T17:46:00Z 2013-12-12T13:07:03Z River, creeks stay within banks in city of NapaCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
December 02, 2012 5:46 pm  • 

Napa public safety officials were on “high alert” Sunday morning as they responded to repeated calls of downed trees and power lines and pockets of flooding from Saturday night’s drenching storm.

Numerous roads were closed throughout the day from American Canyon to Calistoga. In Napa, the worst of the storm had passed by around 9 a.m., said city spokesman Barry Martin.

“The bulk of the rain seems to have passed. It looks like we’re on the back end of the storm,” Martin said shortly after that time. “Some of our stream gauges are showing the flow rates declining. We’re not anticipating the creeks or the river to be out of their banks in Napa.”

The city of Napa’s corporation yard received 1.87 inches of rain from 9:30 a.m. Saturday through 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Mount Veeder received 3.16 inches in that same period. Mount St. Helena recorded the most rainfall in the county, collecting 3.94 inches of rain in the 24-hour period.

The National Weather Service downgraded its projection for flooding in the area of Oak Knoll Avenue, expecting the river to crest at 26.1 feet Sunday evening. That level is about 1 foot above the flood stage, but it had been projected the Napa River would rise 2 feet above the flood level. As of 4 p.m., the river had reached a height of 21.79 feet at Oak Knoll, according to the National Weather Service.

Just before 5 p.m., the Napa River at Yountville Cross Road surpassed flood stage, rising to a height of 21.49 feet, according to the Napa Valley Regional Rainfall and Stream Monitoring System. That level is 1.49 feet above the flood stage for the area.

Anticipating the highest river level in recent years, the city of Napa closed Veterans Memorial Park and a portion of the downtown river promenade, which were designed to carry high flows. Martin said these moves were precautionary. The park, Riverfront promenade, and Oxbow Preserve and Trancas Crossing parks remained closed through Sunday.

Crews used excavators to remove large debris from the trash traps covering the new culverts in the Napa Creek, but smaller debris, including plastic bags, trash and organic material, floated down the Napa River in the downtown area Sunday morning. Residents braved the rain to take pictures of the rising waters.

Mayor Jill Techel said the Napa Creek flood improvement projects “functioned exceptionally well.” On Sunday morning, she was interviewed by a national televised news station and said she was happy to be able to share how the flood control project is working.

“It was nice to have a crew out here not filming us in the midst of disaster, but filming us because of something that worked well,” Techel said. “We don’t want to be the picture for being flooded.”

In Napa, the outlook was “standard” for a storm, according to public safety officials.

“We’ve got downed trees and power lines, flooding,” Martin said. “Nothing serious, nothing out of its banks.”

CalFire said there were “trees down all over the place.”

The California Highway Patrol said it had called in extra officers Sunday to deal with traffic obstructions. The CHP responded to several vehicle spinouts and crashes caused by people driving too quickly in the weather, but had nothing major to report as of 5 p.m. Other agencies reported similar incidents throughout the valley.

In Napa, the only vehicle collision of note — a rollover on Trancas Street at Highway 29 — was not thought to be weather-related.

Upvalley, crews scrambled to deal with drainage issues and flooded streets, including Adams Street and Tainter Street in St. Helena. Giugni’s Deli, on St. Helena’s Main Street, had a “Closed Due to Flooding” sign in its front window.

Gloria Romeo, owner of Romeo Style, was upset because she said Hunt Avenue flooded during the storm and the water seeped into her shop under the door, which has never happened in the 11 years she has been in business at that St. Helena location. A city employee brought her three sandbags and showed her how to put them in front of the door. Romeo and her husband were waiting for another employee to bring a Shop-Vac to the store, so they could clean up the water, and said they would turn on the heat to see if it would dry out.

The Napa River was high, brown and muddy and full of debris, but the banks were holding during the morning rains.

A two-man Caltrans crew was at St. Helena Marketplace north of St. Helena, where the worst of the flooding across Highway 29 was, and worked with shovels to clear a blocked drain shortly after 10 a.m. One of the Caltrans employees said they’ve been working 24 hours straight for four days in shifts, although he said he only started at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

The hardest rain in St. Helena was before 8 a.m. By 10 a.m., it had stopped and the sun came out. A rainbow against the dark stormclouds could be seen throughout downtown.

In Calistoga, the Napa River rose to 12 feet at Lincoln Avenue but stayed within its banks. There was some erosion damage to the bank, including a portion of the retaining wall behind a downtown tasting room that is close to falling into the river, Calistoga Fire Chief Steve Campbell said.

Two houses were damaged by falling trees, as was one car. A motorist on Petrified Forest Road struck a fallen tree, but no one was injured, Campbell said.

There was scattered street flooding, including at the southern corner of the Chateau Calistoga Mobile Home Park, where as much as 5 feet of standing water was reported at the height of the storm, but no homes in the city were flooded.

The only reported flooding in a structure was inside the Calistoga fire house itself, where several inches of water rose because of a plugged storm drain outside. The building and equipment suffered no damage, Campbell said.

The National Weather Service, which issued a flood advisory for Napa on Sunday morning, canceled that warning on Sunday afternoon.

Monday was expected to be partly sunny, with showers possibly returning Monday night and continuing Tuesday through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

With the storm tapering off, the city planned to wind down its self-service sandbag operation later Sunday, Martin said. Since the distribution opened in a parking lot north of the Napa Premium Outlets on Freeway Drive near First Street, about 8,000 sandbags and 150 tons of sand were dispensed by Sunday morning, Martin said.

David Stoneberg, Sean Scully and Kerana Todorov contributed to this report.

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