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Sonoma County flood submerges The Barlow shopping district in Sebastopol

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Mamadou Diouf waded around the flooded streets of The Barlow in knee-high rain boots while talking to his wife on the phone Wednesday, giving her minute-by-minute updates on the status of their high-end store, Tamarind Clothing. As morning pushed past noon, and the full extent of the flood was on display, Diouf’s worst fears became a reality — all of the merchandise in their Sebastopol clothing store was most likely destroyed, he said.

Images on Diouf’s cellphone relayed by a friend, Dylan Taube, kayaking by shops and restaurants in The Barlow showed severe damage to the inside of Diouf’s store.

“It is a total loss and our entire clothing store is gone,” said Diouf, who opened the shop with his wife five years ago. “The water in my store reaches my waist and boxes are floating with clothes. Everything is soaked through with gray water.”

The Barlow, a shopping district located at the eastern edge of Sebastopol along the Laguna de Santa Rosa, was one of dozens of areas across the North Bay facing severe flooding on Wednesday after intense rains this week.

Clusters of people could be seen kayaking near Crooked Goat Brewing, Friedman Wines and Kosho on Wednesday afternoon, craning their necks to view the damage to stores and restaurants, which they relayed back to tenants standing anxiously at the water’s edge.

Longtime residents Craig Kodros and Adam Goldman spent hours at The Barlow on Wednesday giving updates to other residents via Facebook about the rising floodwaters.

Kodros did not have power at his home early Wednesday morning and went to check if his favorite haunt in The Barlow, Village Bakery, was still open. When he arrived, he quickly saw the damage to the retail hub and fears it will only get worse.

“The river has not even crested yet and already The Barlow is totally flooded in a way I have never seen before,” Kodros said Wednesday afternoon.

The destructive power of the storm seemed to take The Barlow’s managers by surprise too, said Kendra Kolling, owner of The Farmer’s Wife in The Barlow, which was also heavily damaged by flooding. Kolling also lost her home in Kenwood in the 2017 fires.

Barlow managers warned tenants Tuesday morning to prepare their shops for the storm, according to a review of emails shared by tenants with The Press Democrat. Barlow managers pledged to monitor conditions at the complex, which is built in a flood plain, and install barriers to protect tenants’ stores if necessary, one email stated.

Facilities Manager Brian Perry notified tenants at 6:44 a.m. Wednesday that many of the stores in The Barlow had already sustained serious damage. The email stated tenants could not access their buildings to retrieve anything until the flood had subsided.

Barney Aldridge, owner of The Barlow, declined to comment on the ongoing situation.

Workers could be seen rushing to place metal flood barriers in front of a few storefronts that had yet to be flooded on Wednesday afternoon, but the majority of businesses had already been damaged.

For Jake Rand, co-owner of Kosho Sushi, the effort came too late.

When he arrived at his restaurant hours after receiving the email from Perry at around 7 a.m., he said the flooding was so severe that his only option to see inside his restaurant was to get a paddle board and float inside.

What he saw left him shocked, Rand said.

“The water was chest deep and it’s now possible that it is a complete loss at this point,” said Rand, who owns the restaurant with his father. Kosho Sushi had only been open four months when the flood struck, likely wiping out all of their dishes, electrical appliances and everything on the walls, he said.

“It was never brought to my attention by the managers that we were the ones who needed to step up and take steps to prepare for this,” Rand said. “So right now there is just a lot of uncertainty.”

Tonja Kraynik, office manager at The Barlow, said in an email to tenants on Wednesday that their goal is to get businesses reopened by March 6.

At least half of the stores in The Barlow, or roughly 19 businesses, were damaged to some extent, said Kolling, who managed to keep an optimistic outlook despite the damage to her restaurant.

“When I heard my business was hit by the floods my first thought was I cannot go through another disaster after going through losing my home in the fires,” Kolling said. “But I snapped back and realized no one is dying, things could be much worse and we will be OK. I have to keep looking at these situations with the cup half full.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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