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Floodwaters from a storm-swollen Russian River finally started receding Thursday evening, allowing residents forced from their homes to begin the painstaking and messy task of cleaning up and repairing damages.

“The water’s going down,” Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said. “Now comes the work.”

Amid scattered showers, the Russian River finally began dropping below flood stage of 32 feet at 5 p.m. It is expected to continue dropping over coming days, draining low-lying areas around Guerneville and elsewhere that had been swamped with floodwaters.

But it could take time to recover from moderate damage expected to go into the millions of dollars, said Christopher Helgren, Sonoma County’s emergency manager.

Inspectors planned to begin tallying it up today with the hope of arriving at an official figure next week. A number of homes and businesses, including The Barlow center in downtown Sebastopol and the marina building at Lake Sonoma, were either flooded or threatened with inundation.

As of Thursday night, power remained out at about 1,100 homes, a Pacific Gas and Electric spokeswoman said.

Additionally, 36 county roads were still closed or under restricted use Thursday night. That was down from a high of about 85 road incidents crews have responded to since Saturday, when the first in a series of storms slammed the North Coast.

Most roads closed due to flooding will open as water levels drop. But some with slow drainage, and those damaged or covered with debris, could remain closed for several more days or partially shut down, officials said.

Some damaged roads are in hard to access places making repairs more of a challenge, said Susan Klassen, the county’s transportation and public works director.

Cazadero Highway, the main thoroughfare leading to the secluded west county hamlet of Cazadero, was down to one lane Thursday because of a landslide covering the narrow and winding road about 3 miles from Highway 116.

St. Helena Road, a winding link between Santa Rosa and west Napa County, also has been reduced to a single lane in the area of Mattei Road due to a mudslide.

Klassen estimated the cost to repair damaged roads will exceed $1 million. That figure does not include employee pay related to emergency response.

The county’s road maintenance crew of 62 workers has been scrambling all week because of the storms. They’ve received assistance from contract workers, tree trimming services and PG&E, which responds when power lines and other utility equipment are damaged.

Klassen has been through this drill many times. In 1986, about six months after she was hired by the county, a series of tropical storms between Feb. 12 and 21 saturated Guerneville with 24.57 inches of rain and drove the Russian River to a record 16.6 feet above flood stage, inundating downtown Guerneville with 3 feet of water and forcing the evacuation of about 1,200 people, many by Chinook helicopters.

Klassen said the risk of another disaster on a similar scale has been mitigated over time by policies restricting where and how people could rebuild their homes, as well as by technologies she said have led to better weather and flood forecasts.

“My view is that every time we have these events, we see a little less damage and a little less debris out of it, because a lot of those areas have been addressed by prior storms,” she said.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who drove parts of her West County district Thursday, agreed. But she said signs exist that some new residents are unfamiliar with the dangers and others have become complacent. The sheer quantity of debris floating in and around the river is testament to the need for better preparedness, she said.

“In some ways, this was a wakeup call for the power of the river,” Hopkins said. “And just how aware you have to be when you live in the flood zone.”

She said past drought conditions contributed to mudslides by reducing vegetation that stabilize the ground. When this week’s two storms hit back to back, the rain loosened soil that came rushing down.

The county on Friday will open six debris and trash collection sites in river communities. The sites will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily through Sunday.

The locations are:

• Guerneville Park n Ride;

• Intersection of Neeley Road, Center Way and Guernewood Road;

• Willow Road at Alder Road, Monte Rio;

• Intersection of Kingston and Bohemian avenues; and

• Intersection of Fir Road and Bohemian Highway.

Hazardous materials can be disposed of from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 14 and 21 at the Guerneville Transfer Station, 13450 Pocket Drive, Guerneville.

For more information or to report flood-related damages call 211.

Seven homes on a mountainside west of Guerneville remain off-limits to occupants because of a mudslide.

Linda Payne’s home, built by her father in 1954, is one of those hit with red-tags. Payne has been staying with a friend.

“It’s frustrating because everyone wants to be back home,” she said.

Elsewhere, the county is expected to lift its evacuation advisory for occupants of as many as 800 homes in Russian River communities sometime this afternoon. Debris boxes will be placed in storm-ravaged areas to help with cleanup, he said.

Since Saturday, more than 9 inches of rain has fallen on the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and almost 22 inches in Venado in the hills west of Healdsburg.

The wet weather swelled the Russian River to its highest level since 2006. It overran its banks Monday.

Some schools in the Guerneville area remained closed Thursday.

And a new storm front bringing rain was forecast to reach the area Wednesday.

In Mendocino County, most state highways were reopened Thursday morning, although Highway 128 east of Highway 1 remained closed.

Lake County continued to have multiple problems with flooding and landslides on county roads, according to the public works department website. County roads closed as of 4 p.m. Thursday included:

• Twin Valley Road in Clearlake Oaks;

• Hill Road, between Sutter Hospital entrance and Lakeshore Boulevard; Mathews Road at Hwy. 175; and Scotts Valley Road from Hendricks Road to Hwy. 20 in Lakeport; and

• Elk Mountain Road at milepost marker 29.6, with four-wheel drive recommended from Upper Lake to Lake Pillsbury in Upper Lake.

In addition, Socrates Mine Road in Cobb is down to one lane in the area of milepost marker 3.8.

Meanwhile, businesses such as The Barlow, an upscale retail center in Sebastopol, were reopening Thursday after being threatened with flooding.

Jennifer Snelling, venue event coordinator, said the water rose knee-high outside on Morris Street but did not enter the buildings.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“The wind was crazy, crazy, crazy,” she said of her experience earlier in the week. “The power went out. We watched the water come up quite a bit.”

Staff Writer Glenda Anderson contributed to this story.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne. You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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