California residents survey damage as floods recede
Guerneville, Calif. – Tom Orr began moving lyrics and scripts, clothes and photo albums from his apartment as authorities ordered evacuations along a rising Northern California river threatening to hit a historic crest.
But the actor and writer couldn’t move costumes, computers and performance videos. So he shifted those to his loft bed about 10 feet up and prayed they would survive. On Wednesday, television news footage showed muddy brown water nearly swallowing his ground-level unit and much of the tiny town of Guerneville, part of Sonoma County’s famed wine country and a popular tourist destination.
Residents awoke Thursday to sunshine and began assessing the damage while the water started receding. Orr, 48, was among those still unable to get into his house after the rain-swollen Russian River reached nearly 46 feet Wednesday night, its highest level in more than 20 years.
“I feel so helpless just sitting here and waiting before I can go back and start salvaging whatever I can,” Orr said in text messages to The Associated Press before preparing for a friend to take him by canoe to work at the Main Street Bistro, one of the few places in town that did not flood.
Sonoma County officials said they expected the communities of Guerneville and Monte Rio to be accessible by car Friday. The two-day storm rendered the towns reachable only by boat on Wednesday.
One National Weather Service station measured 20 inches of rain in 48 hours.
While no flood-related serious injuries or deaths were reported in Sonoma County, a man about 150 miles to the north in Ferndale died trying to reach three children.
The unidentified man was trying to walk from a barn to his home through up to 5 feet of water Wednesday evening when he was carried away by the fast-moving current, said Samantha Karges, a spokeswoman with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
Two adults and a child tried to rescue the man, but their tractor stalled in the water. Deputies in a boat then rescued them and the three children from the home, Karges said.
The missing man’s body was found Thursday morning. He was the father of a 12-year-old trapped in the home with two children under 4, Karges said. She was not sure if all three children were related. The low-lying rural area about 215 miles north of San Francisco is home to many dairy farms and flooded when the Eel River went over its banks.
In Sonoma County, Guerneville and Monte Rio remained cut off by floodwaters that swamped the communities. Water was chest-high in some places, several feet in others.
In downtown Guerneville, some residents stood on the roofs of their flooded two-story houses.
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