Water rose to the roofs of homes and submerged cars as the Russian River overflowed its banks, forcing authorities in Sonoma County, about 70 miles (110 km) north of San Francisco, to order the evacuation of 3,600 people, local authorities said.
One of them, the small city of Guerneville, "is officially an island", the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
About 150 miles (330 kilometers) to the south in Sonoma County, floodwaters from the Russian River were receding after a two-day storm inundated the area. Orr, 48, was among those still unable to get into his house after the rain-swollen Russian River reached almost 46 feet (14 metres) Wednesday night, its highest level in more than 20 years.
"A slow-moving storm is moving into the West Coast from the Pacific, which has been the cause for very heavy rainfall that has occurred over northern and central California [Monday and Tuesday]", AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait warned earlier this week.
There are fears of avalanches in the Sierra Nevada mountains after seven feet of snow fell over the past three days. At that level, which was 14 feet above the flood stage, the river was categorized as major flooding and the NWS said in a flood warning it could be "disastrous". More than 8 feet of water inundated the 23-room business.
More rain is forecast over the next couple of days.
"We hope everyone has evacuated, the roads are closing quickly", Sonoma's sheriff said on the department's Facebook page, showing a video of brown, muddy water rising above a road and flooding homes. The record river height is 49.5 feet.
Parts of Sonoma County received more than a foot of rain, and the river isn't expected to recede until Thursday night.
Mallory's Forecast - Light Snow Chances, Cold Temperatures
The cold front moves through our area Tuesday night and dries & clears us out and significantly drops our temperatures. However, heavier inch-an-hour snow bands are likely, which will rapidly push some totals closer to 8 inches.
Benito Nunez-Rodriguez, 35, of Ferndale was trying to walk from his job at a dairy farm to his home through up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water Wednesday evening when he was carried away by the fast-moving current, said Samantha Karges, a spokeswoman with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.
"It's the price you pay to live in paradise", he said.
A mudslide Tuesday near Monte Rio trapped a man and a woman before they were rescued, messy but unharmed.
The office says three people tried to reach the man by driving a tractor through the floodwaters but the tractor stalled and they couldn't get to him in time.
"I could not afford to buy flood insurance", she said.
"This is the most serious thing that's ever happened to me, but I don't know the punchline", he said.
Firefighters in Monte Rio worked through the night pulling people out of cars stuck in flooded roadways and getting people out of their homes as water approached, Fire Chief Steve Baxman told the Press Democrat newspaper.
He says two were on a boat without paddles and one had to be rescued from a tree after driving her auto into floodwaters.