The current of the Russian River is not its only pull

Jenn Otten stands on the terrace of her house in Rio Nido as a light rain falls during a welcome break between the big storms.

It’s cold. The temperature gauge reads 51 degrees. She is wearing flip flops.

They give her an air of casual confidence: joie de vivre fueled by her easy laugh.

But on the eve of what could be historic storms battering the North Bay and threatening the Russian River and all who live in it, Otten has earned their trust.

It’s hard to win. And it’s anything but casual.

Otten’s confidence comes from being informed and prepared.

“I have my generators running, I have my cables ready, the gas tanks are full. Everything is covered,” she said. “I’ve covered a few areas, stocked up on all the supplies. I have a propane fireplace. I have everything I need.”

A weather radio broadcasts wind and rain updates from inside your home.

From her home, perched on the steep hillside above Rio Nido Roadhouse and Rio Nido Lodge, Otten is prepared to weather the storm.

But she will control every minute.

“It makes me a little nervous,” she said. “They had been talking to an atmospheric river scientist, his concerns were alarming. The fact that there is not one, but two, then three, now four storms.”

As of Friday night, several inches of rain were forecast to fall Saturday night into Sunday with even more falling Sunday into Tuesday. The river was expected to reach seven feet above flood stage Tuesday night.

* * *

This storm isn’t Kayte Guglielmino’s first rodeo. She is a river life.

She moved to Guernewood Park when she was 4 years old and has lived in all but one of the years since in Guerneville.

Once, in a housing pinch, she moved to Forestville for a year before realizing she couldn’t stay away from her community.

“I love it here,” he said. “I can not get enough”.

Guglielmino’s devotion to his hometown means he’s seen it all.

As a child, she would ride the bridge that swayed during storms.

She and her friends used the massive dinosaur statue at the flood-prone Pee Wee Golf Course on Drake Road as a landmark.

“If it was still raining and your neck was sticking out of the water, we knew it was going to be a big flood,” he said.

When flooding made the news, he would board boats that would ferry reporters to storm sites, pointing out local landmarks.

A kind of tour guide.

“I would get on the boat and say ‘Oh, this is it and this is where my friend lives and this is where we can go to school,’” he said. “We would see the same reporters at every flood.”

They happen with that kind of regularity.

But Guglielmino is no longer a child.

Today when it rains, she worries. Every flooded house, every mud-soaked business has a face behind it.

Usually from a friend.

“It’s not exciting when you know the impact of the flood. They are your friends, your family’s business. It’s very different,” she said. “Now it’s scary when it floods because I know everyone here.”

* * *

For Otten, her immediate concerns during these storms are the huge trees looming over her house and all the houses in her neighborhood.

“When the wind blows, it’s almost stunning,” he said. “When the trees sway and move and you hear them creak, you can feel your heart sink a little bit.”

And it doesn’t have to be a whole tree, blown off by a torrent of rainwater. It may be a waterlogged branch that becomes heavy and falls off the tree.

Otten calls them “widow makers.”

The fear is real.

In an unfathomable tragedy on Wednesday night, a massive redwood fell on a house in Occidentalkilling a 2 year old.

Otten said she and her neighbors regularly monitor the trees around their collective homes. A neighbor is an arborist.

They keep him busy.

“Two decades ago, a 150- or 180-foot tree brought down a house across the street,” he said. “It missed us by 20 feet, but right after that we downed about seven trees around my property.”

Rio Nido is the smallest of the villageshidden above the River Road Roadhouse and Lodge, a loop of houses that were used as summer cottages.

The towering trees, which keep things extremely damp and dark all winter long, are the same trees that provide lovely shade in the summer.

“The nights are so beautiful,” he said.

By Friday, Otten’s power had returned and braced for another round of storms that are expected to hit the area over the weekend.

His weather radio was playing in the background. She listens to the wind and rain reports, the high tides and the low tides.

Although the rain eased on Friday, he remained vigilant and urged others to stay vigilant as well.

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