Guerneville post office back in business after closure two weeks ago because of Russian River flooding

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It was everyone’s first day back, so there were bound to be a few raised voices.

“It was supposed to be here two weeks ago,” complained a woman at the front of the line that formed in the parking lot of the Guerneville post office, which was back in business Tuesday for the first time since its closure last month as a result of severe flood damage.

“Let me take another look,” replied clerk Jim Cravens, in his most soothing voice.

“I’ve gotta get to work!” said the agitated customer.

“We’re going as fast as we can.”

Chiseled in granite over the entrance of the New York City post office on Eighth Avenue is the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Nothing in there about floods.

While rural deliveries for Guerneville residents resumed March 5, customers with post office boxes had been forced since Feb. 28 to make the 40-minute round trip to the Occidental post office to pick up their mail. That disruption ended Tuesday.

Working closely with Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, USPS officials secured a trailer that will serve Guerneville as a kind of pop-up post office.

That cramped and slapdash arrangement, set up in the parking lot behind the post office proper, will be in place until the building has been renovated.

That won’t happen before April 1, according to USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr.

While hazmat-suited workers swabbed the tiled floor just inside the front door, patrons queued up at the chain-link gate at the east end of the building.

After presenting an ID, and giving the clerk their p.o. box number, they waited for their mail.

To pick up someone else’s mail, you needed their ID and a written note granting permission. Rachel Dropp had her boyfriend’s driver’s license, but lacked a note.

“Looks like he’ll be picking up his own mail,” she said.

Behind those gates, out of sight of customers, were arrayed a hundred or so trays containing some 400 letters apiece. Inside the new trailer was the “carrier’s area,” explained Guerneville Postmaster Joe Mills, for “pulling, stacking and sorting.” Their work went remarkably smoothly, considering that it took place in a 600-square-foot space.

“We usually have 5,100 square feet,” said Mills, motioning to the moldering building nearby.

“It’s chaos,” he concluded, “but it’s organized chaos.”

While the folks in line tended to push inside the gates, the process was swift and largely civil.

“Other side of the fence please!” the postmaster reminded them at one point.

Throughout the morning, wait times were short.

“They’re doing a really good job,” said Chip Duvall, whose mail haul included a parcel from Veterans Affairs containing his pain medication, which was going to run out in two days. “This is so much better than driving to Occidental.”

Diane Moroni was pleased to discover her IRS refund check in the batch of mail she was handed.

“My landlord will also be happy,” she deadpanned.

Erica Champion, manager of the nearby Riverlane Resort, came away clutching a bundle that included checks and important paperwork from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We can’t run our business,” she said, without frequent trips to the post office. She won’t miss the drive to Occidental.

Many people had driven to Occidental, only to be told that their mail was headed for Guerneville. Among those making that round trip in vain was Angelique Rivera of Monte Rio.

She was all smiles as clerks handed her an Amazon Prime box containing new frying pans, ordered before her home flooded. “I bought them because all the frying pans I have are crappy. Now I need them because I can’t find my frying pans.”

After thanking the clerk who helped her, she turned to address all of them, exclaiming, “Welcome back!”

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or austin.murphy@pressdemocrat.com.

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