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Flooding in Sonoma County causes estimated $155 million in damage

The powerful storm that swept over Sonoma County last week caused an estimated $155 million in damage to homes, businesses, roads and other public infrastructure, county officials announced Saturday.

The updated assessment came at the end of a week marked by the largest flood on the lower Russian River in nearly a quarter century. Guernville and other riverside communities took the heaviest blow, but flooding elsewhere - in Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Geyserville - led to widespread damage countywide, said Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma, the county’s planning and building agency.

Approximately 1,900 homes were affected, with major damage reported at 1,760, according to the county.

Flooding impacted 578 commercial buildings and businesses, including restaurants, pubs, resorts, stores and theaters.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents west county, said the assessment reflected the heavy toll inflicted on her constituents and the large challenge in the region’s recovery.

“Unfortunately, we’re at the center of all those damages,” Hopkins said. “We have a lot of small businesses that are closed down and everyday that they are closed is a day that they are not making revenue. That’s a hard hit to take.”

Among the shuttered businesses was Village Bakery, headquartered in the storm-battered Barlow business district of Sebastopol. Its owners announce on social media Friday that the business was closed indefinitely and that they had laid off 60 employees. A photo showed the bakery had been red-tagged by the county as a “total loss.

“We appreciate the outpouring of love and support our community has shown us over the last 48 hours,” the post read.

Owner Patrick Lum did not respond to calls for comment Friday. The bakery is a major supplier to cafes and stores in the area, including Oliver’s markets.

The county damage report was compiled partly by GIS mapping, which can project the impact of weather, including flooding, by applying it to topography and structural models of specific locations, Wick said.

Flood-related damage to water, sewage and school districts in the area was also factored in to the assessment, he said.

The bulk of the damage toll, $91.6 million, was made up by flooding that impacted homes, county spokeswoman Hannah Euser said.

Damage to businesses accounted for $35 million of the overall toll.

Eroded roads, an damage to bridges and other public infrastructure countywide accounted for $23 million. Flood response, including fire and law enforcement services, amounted to an initial tally of $2.2 million.

Public works officials said they were in the initial phase of examining damage to the local network of roads and bridges.

A landslide on Skaggs Springs Road in the county’s northwest corner dumped a massive amount of trees, rock and mud onto the route, which could take several weeks to clear, said Johannes Hoevertsz, the county’s transportation and public works.

A 12-inch retaining wall on Geysers Road in Cloverdale was also damaged from the storm and needed repairs, he said.

Smaller roads will need a slew of moderate to minor repairs. They include Upper Rio Nido Road, a key evacuation route for Rio Nido residents and connector with Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Hopkins said.

County building inspectors began taking stock of damaged properties Friday, when water levels fell below the flood stage in Guerneville. They assessments are set to continue through this week and will help to craft a more accurate picture of the damage, Wick said. The process could take several weeks and result in a different damage toll, he said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Sonoma County, which makes state resources available as recovery continues. The federal government could declare the incident a federal disaster if damages rise high enough, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services, said Friday.

Hopkins and other county leaders were advocating for federal aid because it would provide individual assistance for those impacted by the floods. That assistance including loans and grants, could help residents pay for repairs to their damaged homes, or cover the cost to temporarily live elsewhere if their homes are inhabitable, she said.

“I have a lot of questions of where people go from here,” Hopkins said.

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