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Soaked, in more ways than one

Northern California sites are mopping up, but storms were an economic blow.

January 08, 2006|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

DESPITE the ferocity of storms in Northern California last week, many hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions north of San Francisco escaped damage.

The heavily touristed Russian River area in Sonoma County and Napa wine country were mopping up after two storms dumped up to 8 inches of rain on some areas. Some tourism businesses took on water but cleaned up quickly and reopened last week. A few expected to be closed into this week. Most rivers had receded below flood stage by Tuesday.

The region's renowned vineyards were not expected to suffer lasting damage as the grapes had been harvested.

The highways did not fare as well. As of the Travel section's deadline Tuesday, mudslides and flooding had caused dozens of road closures in Northern California, most of them temporary. But in Geyserville, California 128 was closed indefinitely at the Russian River because of a sagging bridge, said Lauren Wonder, an Oakland-based spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation. For updates on road closures, visit or call (800) 427-7623.

In Napa Valley, "there was very minor damage done to the visitor-serving businesses," said Beth Carmichael, executive director of the Napa-based Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau. "Most everything is operating on a normal schedule." That included Copia, the $55-million center for food, wine and art in Napa, she said.

But the Napa Valley Wine Train, which makes a three-hour round-trip run between the cities of Napa and St. Helena, canceled this weekend's journeys.

"We lost about 20 feet of rock and dirt under the tracks," said Erica Ercolano, the train's director of marketing. She said the train would resume its regular schedule Friday after repairs are made.

Guerneville, a hub of the Russian River resort area, sustained more extensive damage. As of Tuesday, about half of the town's 25 inns and B&Bs were closed, said Toni Tacoma, president of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce.

Among them was Creekside Inn & Resort, about 200 yards from the river. Five of its 16 cabins, plus 1,800 square feet of the resort's main building, were flooded, said owner Lynn Crescione. She said she expected the inn to be closed at least into this week.

The 19-room Applewood Inn and the 16-room Highlands Resort, both on hilltops, were among Guerneville lodgings that escaped damage, their co-owners said. Downtown Guerneville also emerged unscathed, Tacoma said.

"In the middle of town, almost all the shops are open," she said.

Damaged or not, inns and attractions in wine country were dealt a heavy economic blow by the storms, which came over the busy New Year's holiday.

Co-owner Darryl Notter said his Applewood Inn was booked solid for New Year's Eve; 100 people had dinner reservations that night. The storms canceled all that business.

The Wine Train canceled its annual New Year's Eve extravaganza, booked by about 240 people, Ercolano said.

For updates on tourist facilities, contact the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, (877) 644-9001 or; or the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau, (707) 226-7459 or

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