Guerneville, Monte Rio residents begin cleanup process following massive flooding

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Flooded Russian River communities are open again, and residents are wasting no time launching their clean-up.

"As the water started receding I followed it out with the hose, " said Peter Hackett, owner of the Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville, which sits on the river's bank.

Hackett's brewpub was busy with workers scrubbing, scraping and hosing mud off of every surface, every object. Removing it before it dries, he said, is key.

"This is my fourth flood, and the year I bought this place, it flooded," said Hackett. "So we're used to this."

With health department approval, he hopes to re-open early next week."As far as businesses are concerned, this one is designed to take water, as long as we get the mud out," he said.

Whether flood veteran or an area newcomer, the general opinion was that the flood was worse than people expected. The Safeway store re-opened Friday, which buoyed many residents. 

But in downtown Guerneville, several stores are yellow and red-tagged, for restricted or no entry due to water damage. Piles of ruined furniture and possessions are piled up in front of many properties, as people try to wash the thick much away. 

"We were lucky, we didn't get a lot of damage," said Pete Gilmore of Forestville, showing KTVU the high-water mark on his garage door. "It was more than we expected, but it didn't make it into the house.

The Gilmore home has been raised twice, and now sits 28 feet up. The river, normally placid in their backyard, poured through their ground floor workshop and storage, even dampening their wedding album up in a loft. 

"That was a shock," said Dawne Gilmore, turning the moist pages. "We've been trying to be in good spirits the whole day so that shook me a little bit. But everything's replaceable." 

Homes and businesses that took a direct hit will require more than a hosing off. Big items like porta-potties have floated into odd places, and countless fences are toppled, or simply gone. 

"We're eager to go back to work, and take care of the community," said Christa Luedtke, owner of Boon Eat + Drink, a restaurant on Guerneville's Main Street.

Luedtke was happy to see her kitchen staff, who were confined at home by high water for two days. 

"The town is open for business," she added, "and there's still a lot of clean up, but people are eager to get back. It takes a village but we've got a really strong one here." 

As bartenders greeted people Friday night, reunited friends raised their glasses in toasts. "I'm celebrating being alive," Josh Hogg told KTVU, as he spontaneously popped a bottle of champagne while helping mop mud at Stumptown Brew.

Hogg came to help his favorite watering hole, while pumps were draining his own property. "Only a few people working right now are employees here," he said. "Because these locals are helping bail this place out and get it ready."

With many questions and concerns about clean-up and recovery, Sonoma County officials will host a community meeting Sunday afternoon, March 3, from 2-4 pm, at El Molino High School in Forestville.