GUERNEVILLE (CBS SF) – The Sonoma County Sheriff announced Friday afternoon that the evacuation orders for the communities along the Russian River due to major flooding had been lifted.
An advisory issued by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office at 12:30 p.m. Friday noted that county staff would be conducting damage assessments on properties throughout the region. An estimated 2,600 properties were flooded.
The county wants residents to ensure their safety by waiting until their property has been assessed before entering homes and other structures. Damage assessments began on Friday and are planned throughout the weekend. Colored tags will be posted on structures once assessments have been completed.
Green tags mean the structure is safe to re-enter, while yellow tags indicate limited entry (the tags will specify the limited areas) and red tags mean the property is not safe to enter.
The American Red Cross is providing re-entry clean-up kits to residents that include a bucket, rags, a mop, a broom and cleaning solution. A limited quantity of leather gloves will also be available. Kids can be picked up Friday through Sunday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at three locations:
- Guerneville: Guerneville Park and Ride, Highway 116
- Forestville: Mirabel Park and Ride, Mirabel Road and River Road
- Monte Rio: Monte Rio Community Center, 20188 Highway 116
The Sheriff’s office also wanted to remind residents not to dump debris along roadways. Several locations will be set up for debris disposal, though hazardous waste will not be taken at the debris disposal sites.
The advisory also warned of possible health issues related to exposure to contaminated floodwater, advising residents the contamination can cause wound infections, skin rash, gastrointestinal illness and tetanus.
The advisory also warned residents to abide by all flood-related road closures and to use caution around any fallen or dangling power lines as PG&E repairs outages.
As the flooded Russian River receded Friday morning following this week’s atmospheric river event that pounded the region with heavy rain, crews were surveying the damage.
As of 8 a.m. Friday, the river at Guerneville was at 33.57 feet, slightly above the flood stage of 32 feet. On Wednesday night, the river crested above 45 feet, one of the highest crests on record and the highest the river has been in more than two decades.
The flooding has damaged an estimated 3,000 structures. Nearly 60 people have been rescued.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the California Highway Patrol allowed evacuated Guerneville residents to re-enter the community. IDs were being checked at a checkpoint by Stumptown Brewery on River Road.
On Friday, Guerneville resident David Youngberg is one of many people in the town hard at work sweeping away any remaining water and washing off the trail of mud it left behind.
“This one was fast. It was at 45 feet and it was like, ‘Oh no, it’s time to get home,'” said Youngberg. “And we just started grabbing stuff and just making sure that everything got taken care of. I saved my wife’s Christmas ornaments.”
A quarter mile from downtown Guerneville, Agnes Wong McNulty and her husband Art were finally able to emerge from their home Friday morning after being stranded inside for days.
They stayed despite the evacuation order.
“We didn’t think it would be such a major, major flood,” she said. “We’ve ridden out a number of other floods, but nothing like this. This is certainly over the top.”
Earlier, Ward was also able to get a closer look at the damage.
As you drive through Guerneville, damage is visible everywhere. From stranded canoes to mud-caked cars and bushes.
Not much escaped the flood unscathed.
Now, the clean-up begins as the emotional shock and remaining water finally recede.
“We had no idea that it collapsed and everything is out here on the road,” said Wong McNulty. “We’re just overwhelmed. It’s beyond what anyone could think.”
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tweeted pictures of debris in the evacuation zones, which included trees, boats and even a propane tank.
However, on the main strip of downtown Guerneville, a number of businesses remained relatively untouched. Some were open for business Friday.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s office hopes to allow the general public access to Guerneville by Saturday morning.
In Sebastopol, floodwaters from the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands submerged part of the town’s shopping district known as the Barlow.
It’s starting to dry out, but some places are still a muddy mess. Drivers are maneuvering through some blocked roads.
Business owners are hoping to get things back and running sometime next week.