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Evacuation order lifted in Guerneville as Russian River floodwaters begin to recede

The flooded Russian River is beginning to recede, and an evacuation order was lifted Friday afternoon in Guerneville, a Sonoma County town that had been turned into a virtual island by rising waters.

“It’s dropping below flood level as we speak,” Carolina Walbrun, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said around noon on Friday. “Now it’s just about taking care of all the damage that’s left because of the flood.”

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The Russian River peaked at 45.4 feet at 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to NWS data.

A mandatory evacuation order for residents of Guerneville and other stretches along the river was lifted Friday afternoon. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department asks that only people who live or do business in the area return, so as not to obstruct the cleanup and recovery effort. The Sonoma sheriff estimated 2,600 properties were flooded.

The American Red Cross is giving residents a cleanup kit that includes a bucket, rags, mop, broom and cleaning solution. The kits are available March 1-3, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Guerneville Park and Ride, Mirabel Park and Ride and Monte Rio Community Center. Sonoma County is also setting up sites for residents to drop off debris.

The Sonoma sheriff warned residents to stay clear of any water because “we don’t know exactly what is in floodwater at any given point in time.”

It could be contaminated, the department noted, carrying animal or industrial waste, or could be hiding downed power lines, debris, or rodents and snakes.

A series of winter storms — the first expected to hit late Friday and the second on Tuesday — is not expected to produce enough rain to flood the river again.

“We’ll get some rain,” Walbrun said, “but it’s not going to translate into any flooding for the Russian and Napa rivers.”

The region could see about half an inch to just over an inch of precipitation over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

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