Russian River flood recedes, cleanup, damage tally ensues

Sonoma County officials expect storm and flood damage to amount to millions of dollars, as they continue to tally it.

Saturday at noon, elected leaders will tour the coast and river communities hardest hit by the heavy rain and wind of the past week.

It will also be a weekend of clean-up activity, as the flooding Russian River left a thick coat of mud and debris everywhere it flowed.

"I guess once you survive this, you become a river rat, so I'm a river rat now," Guerneville resident Scott Ferguson told KTVU, outside his home on Guernewood Road.

The flood waters cut Ferguson and his neighbors off, closing roads into their neighborhood.

The depth on his street would have been over his head, he observed.

Now, with a thick layer of slime everywhere, Ferguson hopes street sweepers show up.   

"This kind of debris, this mud, it's contaminated," he noted, "because it's got everything in it from the river. Bacteria, fungus, you name it, it's dangerous stuff.".

Sonoma County has placed dumpsters strategically around the river flood zones, and they are filling fast.

Because the river muck is so thick and slimy, backhoes are needed to move it in some places; at a minimum it takes pressure washers to blast it off pavement and floors.

"The important thing is to get rid of it fast, because it dries so quickly so if you can slush it out with the river, that's the best thing," explained Dennis Park, whose house looks directly out at the river.

He raised it ten feet after floods twenty years ago wrecked it, and has been rewarded ever since, as the water and silt fill his garage underneath, but not his living space.

"It's worth it, " he smiled, "because we live in the most beautiful spot on Earth, look at that wild river and those redwoods!"

It is still a beautiful spot, but a muddy one.

Ironically, the people swinging into action now are the same ones who were stranded and idle during the worst of the rain.

"My boyfriend couldn't go to work, and I couldn't leave," Erin Simpson of Guerneville told KTVU, "so we spent four or five days, just being at the house, it was cabin fever!"

As Guerneville mops up, Main Street merchants want to make sure word gets out, they are open for business.

"Everything is pretty much back to normal, " server Sophia Reoutt told KTVU as she waited tables Friday night at Seaside Metal Ale & Oysters.

The restaurant was closed only one day, Sunday, because of concerns employees wouldn't be able to drive safely to work in such stormy conditions.

"People are just cleaning up in different spots now and it's mostly residential," added Reoutt.

Next door, Robin Johnson, owner of the Guerneville 5 and 10, hoped the news coverage of the river flood might have a silver lining.

"It can be fun to go to a place you've seen on the news, with all the water happening," she mused, " and now you can see fast the river recedes, it's amazing, so come out and play!"