The evacuation order has been lifted for the lower Russian River area and county officials are allowing residents and business owners back into the flood zone. Officials are asking non-residents to stay away from the flood zone so they don't impede clean-up efforts.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, representatives from several county agencies spoke briefly about what residents should expect now that the floodwaters have begun to recede.
Starting on Friday, a team of 30 inspectors from Permit Sonoma will begin inspecting the 2,600 homes and businesses that have been directly impacted by the flooding to insure that they are fit for habitation. Permit Sonoma Director Tennis Wick, said his inspectors will be working through the weekend.
"Inspectors may overlap with returning residents," Wick said. "So if you see two people, someone in uniform with someone in civilian clothes with the proper paperwork, on your property, rest assured that they're just there to inspect the property to make sure it's safe for re-entry."
Wick also said Permit Sonoma was setting up a local assistance center in Guerneville to expedite the permit process for people looking to repair their homes.
Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins warned of several dangers to residents in the flood zone.
"If at all possible, avoid contact with the floodwater," she said. "Floodwater can contain downed power lines, human and livestock waste, as well as household, medical and industrial waste. There might be objects you don't expect when you reach into floodwater or when you start cleaning up silt so you don't want to do this with your bare hands."
For residents in the flood zone and surrounding regions, she cautioned patience in regard to road closures.
"As the floodwater recedes, public works is evaluating roads and bridges to insure that they are structurally safe for vehicles."
Sheriff Mark Essick mentioned that his office had 17 deputies stationed in Guerneville during the flood, most of them brought in by boat. "Those deputies are providing guidance and safety to those who are still there, and they're working as a preventative to any looting."
During questioning, Essick mentioned there had been no looting--the one report of looting turned out to be three homeless people seeking shelter--as well as no deaths, serious injuries or even reports of missing persons, which he attributed to the county's work "notifying people beforehand and evacuating as many people as possible."
According to Essick, there were two rescues on Wednesday night in the river area: "At 3 a.m., we had two women who were in a boat that drifted offshore and they had no paddles or oars." Rescuers pulled them to safety.
In addition, Essick said a newspaper delivery person "went off the road, into water that was 10-feet deep. She had to be rescued because of a hypothermic situation ... she was airlifted to a local hospital and is doing fine."
"I want to assure the residents of Sonoma County that we're working as quickly as possible to identify hazards and other health and safety issues and get the residents of Guerneville and surrounding towns back into their homes and businesses."
David Rabbitt, chairman of the board of supervisors, mentioned that California governor Gavin Newsome had declared a state of emergency for Sonoma County.
"This is a critical step in allowing county and other agencies to apply for funds to help the region recover from the impact of the floods, mudslides and other damage to our critical infrastructure," he said.
For more information, go to www.socoemergency.org or call 707-565-3856.
More information from Supervisor Lynda Hopkins
While crews are working to open roads, County staff have also started conducting damage assessments on an estimated 2,600 properties that have flooded. Damage assessments will be conducted today (Friday) and throughout the weekend. Colored tags will be posted after assessments are complete. Green tags mean it is safe to re-enter, yellow tags indicate limited entry (tags will specify limited areas), and red tags mean the property is not safe to enter. To ensure your safety please wait until your property has been assessed before entering.
RE-ENTRY CLEAN-UP KITS:
The American Red Cross is distributing re-entry clean-up kits to residents that include a bucket, rags, mop, broom, and cleaning solution. A limited quantity of leather gloves is also available. Kits can be picked up at from Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 3, from 8:00am-5:00pm at the following 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 County is setting up several locations throughout the area for residents to drop off debris. DO NOT dump debris in roadways. Dispose of debris at proper locations. Hazard waste will not be accepted at debris drop off locations.
LOCAL ASSISTANCE CENTER:
A Local Assistance Center (LAC) will be set up in Guerneville by Monday after a location secured.
To maximize State and Federal support opportunities, we encourage residents impacted by the flood to accurately record and report all losses and damages. Please report everything including damages to property, personal belongings, vehicles, and all items large and small on your property. Take photos and make a list of all items damaged or lost.
It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.
If you come in contact with floodwater:
- Wash the area with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
- Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.
Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause wound infections, skin rash, gastrointestinal illness and tetanus. Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health.