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Evacuations lifted for flooded California wine country towns

1 year 9 months 5 days ago Friday, March 01 2019 Mar 1, 2019 March 01, 2019 2:05 PM March 01, 2019 in News - AP National

By JOSH EDELSON and OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (AP) - Jason Flint prepared for flooding in Northern California by putting his deli's valuable equipment on pallets and milk crates stacked several feet above the ground.

It wasn't enough, as he found out Friday when he returned to Guerneville after two days of flooding in Sonoma County's famed wine country.

Mud covered refrigerators and display cases, and food floated in 6 feet (2 meters) of murky water.

"My entire deli is wiped out," Flint said. "It's crazy. It's too much to get my head around this."

Evacuation orders were lifted and all roads into Guerneville and neighboring Monte Rio were opened Friday, almost three days after being cut off by the rain-swollen Russian River.

Along the main road in Guerneville, business owners inspected the damage caused by floodwaters that rose about 46 feet (14 meters) Wednesday night, the river's highest level 24 years.

Chris Reid, a manager of True Value Hardware, said they were able to salvage cash registers, computers, chain saws and other expensive equipment by putting them on the second floor of the two-story building.

But on the ground level, all the shelves were covered in chest-high mud. He and employees washed down rubber boots, brooms, shovels, buckets and other salvaged cleaning supplies and brought them to the sidewalk to sell at a discounted rate.

Locals are accustomed to the river flooding in rainy weather, but not like this, he said.

"The store has gone through all the floods but this is a lot more than we expected," Reid said.

Days of heavy rain left Guerneville and the tiny town of Monte Rio reachable only by boat on Wednesday. About 2,600 homes, businesses and other structures in the popular tourist destination were flooded by water up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) deep and at least 3,500 people were ordered to evacuate.

Sonoma County spokesman Hannah Euser said even though evacuation orders were lifted for residents of Guerneville and Monte Rio, residents were encouraged to wait to enter their homes until they are inspected.

"We have a lot of buildings that have taken in water and we will be inspecting them to determine if they are safe," she said.

Euser said crews were still clearing trees, tires and even propane tanks from the streets while workers with Pacific Gas and Electric checked power lines.

Light rain was forecast for Friday night in the area and Euser said emergency personnel would remain working through the weekend.

Another wet system is in the forecast next week, though forecasters say it's expected to affect central California.

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Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco also contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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