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Rossmoor opens sandbag station, braces for next storm


Photo by Tom Cashion Water pours down a hill and onto a street in Rossmoor during Saturday’s storm.

By Craig Lazzeretti and Ann Peterson

News editors


(Updated 1 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 3): GRF is opening its own sandbag station in Rossmoor at the Fitness Center parking lot. Sand and sand bags will be provided.

The station will be staffed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After hours, residents can bring their own shovel to fill bags. Residents should fill them up no more than half way because the bags will be heavy.

Another atmospheric river storm is expected early Wednesday morning with heavy rain and strong winds.

Public safety experts advise that people should stay home during these strong “atmospheric river” storms. Strong storms can very quickly turn deadly  —  heavy rains bring flash flooding, mudslides, downed trees, debris flows, property damage and loss of power.  If residents lose power,  they are advised not to light candles inside their manor but use flashlights and battery-powered lanterns only.

If someone’s life is in danger, they should call 911 immediately.

If a residence is in danger of flooding, contact the MOD Work Order Desk at 925-988-7650 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or email (please leave only one message). If it is after hours, contact Securitas at 925-988-7899.

Rossmoor Emeregency Preparedness Organization (EPO) has a website for all types of emergencies at

(Updated 3:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 2): Residents and staff on Monday were bracing for the arrival of a second atmospheric river system, just days after the first one uprooted trees and caused severe flooding and landslides in Rossmoor.

Crews and contractors spent Sunday and Monday cleaning up damage from persistent rainfall on Saturday, Dec. 30, that resulted in more than 100 storm-related calls to Securitas. At one point, more than 5 inches of rain was recorded in less than 12 hours Saturday, which flooded bunkers and caused two mudslides on the golf course, as well as flooding to entries and leaks in manors throughout the valley.

Photo by Tom Cashion Rain water pours down the hill at Shady Glen and into the Hillside parking lot.

Among the hardest hit areas were Oakmont, with flooding and a downed tree; Hillside parking lot, which was partially flooded; Saklan Indian and Terra California with landslides and a portion of the Mutual Operations Department, which was flooded.

To make matters worse, forecasts call for another major storm system to bring 4 to 8 inches and winds up to 19 mph starting Wednesday, Jan. 4. The National Weather Service said wet weather is expected to blanket the region through at least Jan. 16.

Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion said GRF and Securitas, along with the city of Walnut Creek, are busy performing preventative flooding measures and will upstaff for the next storm. Preventative measures have included clearing gutters and drains, especially near hills and other problem areas.

Sandbag stations are open throughout the city, the closest on Lancaster Road across from Orchard Lane (about a mile from Rossmoor). Other sandbag locations are in Heather Farms’ north parking lot off San Carlos, Larkey Park off Buena Vista Avenue, Howe Homestead parking lot off Walnut Boulevard and Rudgear Park on Rudgear Way. The city will provide the sand and bags, but residents need to bring their own shovel and fill the bags themselves.

Many cities throughout the Bay Area struggled Saturday with downed trees, flooded roadways and power outages. In Walnut Creek, Tice Creek crested Saturday, with flood waters closing Tice Valley Boulevard for a few hours.

Floods such as that one made it difficult for some staff to reach Rossmoor. But Mutual Operations still had several crews working, along with Five Star Construction and Terra Landscape during Saturday’s storm, which came on a holiday weekend.

Photo by Tom Cashion Water floods an entry in Oakmont during Saturday’s storm.

“The drainage systems were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water,” Mutual Operations Director Paul Donner said. “The hillsides couldn’t absorb the amount of rain causing the mudslides, which then clogged the drains. That along with the standard rain leaks and flooding made for a difficult day. It will take several weeks to clean it all up.”

Every corner of Rossmoor was affected Saturday during the relentless rainfall – from flooding inside a Saklan Indian manor and a fallen tree on the Dollar Ranch Golf Course to leaking ceilings, windows, doors, even a light from Rockledge to Running Springs and Lakeshire to Terra Granada, even inside the Fitness Center.

While the number of calls were high, they could have been worse if crews hadn’t managed to clear drains and avert some landslides of hills above homes.

“Compared to what happened in communities outside the gate, I think we faired pretty well,” Donner said. “Having a storm like this happen on a holiday weekend created some challenges with staff and contractor availability. Those who gave up their holiday to serve Rossmoor should be commended.”

Among those helped was resident Mary Jean Odmark, who had five power fans and a dehumidifier trying to dry out her Saklan Indian Drive manor on Sunday. Flooding was so significant in her manor, an outside contractor was called to vacuum out the water from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, preventing water from reaching her living room.

“I practically had a swimming pool in my office,” Odmark said Sunday. “It was really flowing in here yesterday morning. It was downright scary.”

Odmark experienced some water intrusion during the storm a couple weeks ago. Now she and many other Rossmoor residents and GRF staff are worried about the return of rainy weather this week.

Photo by Tom Cashion A Terra Landscape worker clears a landslide caused by Saturday’s storm.

Among those worried is Director of Golf Mark Heptig, who along with Golf Course Superintendent Blake Swint assessed the damage Sunday to the two golf courses. While Creekside sustained severe flooding, Dollar Ranch saw damage that included the loss of a 100-year-old oak tree that fell across the 14th fairway, landslides on the No. 3 green and No. 5 fairway and bunkers filled with water.

Heptig called the damage “pretty sobering,” and because of forecasted rain, he estimates the courses will remain closed for at least two to three weeks.

“Once the rain stops, we will need a minimum of a week to put the golf courses back together,” he said, noting that the bunkers will be left alone until the rain stops. “The damage in many areas could get worse since there is nothing we can do right now but watch mother nature’s power. Our main objective is to keep the creek flow going and any drainage lines free of debris.”

Paul and Patti Holland also are taking a wait-and-see approach after water leaked from the ceiling above the bedroom of their Wales Drive home Saturday morning.

“Before we got the buckets out, we had about a half-inch of water,” said Paul Holland, who noted that his backyard rain gauge measured 7 inches of rain on Saturday.

Later in the day, water started dripping from the ceiling into the kitchen, rising about a quarter inch. A similar situation happened about a year and a half ago, Patti Holland said.

“If our gutters get clogged with leaves, it pushes water up into the attic,” she said. “Water was coming down from the attic and chimney above the stove.”

A 100-year-old oak tree toppled on the 14th fairway of Dollar Ranch course.

The attic is scheduled to be inspected later this week.

“Now it’s a beautiful day, but we’re going to get a lot more rain,” Patti Holland said on Sunday. She added that the important thing was that she and her husband were OK. “It is what it is. There’s not much you can do about it.”

Cindy Sonstelie said she was lucky to have no inside damage to her High Eagle Court manor, but significant water was flowing onto the deck. She said the water was coming through the deck ceiling instead of the drainage pipe.

“It was sort of a steady stream coming from the area right next to the spout,” she said. “I could hear it all morning. I thought it was just raining, and I went out and saw the waterfall.”

Jean Moss, who lives on Terra Granada Drive, said water ran down her bedroom window “like a river” and she woke to find the water coming through the windowsill. She kept water out of the manor by soaking it up with towels.

Moss, who moved to Rossmoor in April, said she didn’t realize she had a gutter there until she saw the water. A worker was able to clear the gutter to stop the overflow.

“It was pouring rain when he went up,” she said. “I felt so bad for him.”

The damage and unrelenting rain prompted a Nixle alert Saturday afternoon, asking residents to stay off the roads.

Because of the drought, it has been a while since Rossmoor has had to deal with storm damage of this magnitude.

Photo by Claudia Terry Creekside’s golf course experienced flooding during Sunday’s storm.

And in the case of the golf course, some damage is beyond what GRF staff will be capable of handling, Heptig said.

“This damage is a little more difficult,” Heptig said. “The area up on No. 5 with those landslides is dicey. We definitely will need engineers in here to fix this up.”

(Check back for updates.)