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Gov. Newsom Declares State of Emergency in Sonoma County

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday declared a state of emergency for Sonoma County following days of rain that led to flooding and mudslides along the Russian River.

The declaration will allow state funds and resources to help the flooded and damaged communities recover and repair damaged infrastructure.

California Floods
Floodwater from the Russian River inundates portions of Guerneville, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Newsom previously declared an emergency in 21 other counties due to storm damage. The declaration directs Caltrans to formally request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief Program and allows the governor's Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to local governments.

Sonoma County officials, who declared a local state of emergency Tuesday, gave an update Thursday afternoon on the flooding along the lower Russian River, which resulted in a mandatory evacuation Tuesday.

The river reached its crest Wednesday night at 45.4 feet. Flood stage is 32 feet at the Guerneville Bridge.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said a 5 a.m. high tide caused the water to recede slower than anticipated Thursday.

Sonoma County sheriff's officials announced some good news Thursday evening when they said will try to open Guerneville, which was inundated by flood water, at noon Friday to residents only.

The public might be allowed in Saturday morning.

Essick said 17 deputies who are in the flood area made two water rescues Wednesday night.

Traffic in the flood area is delayed, Essick said.

"Routine 10-minute trips are taking an hour. Be patient on the roads," Essick said.

The governor's Office of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency will assess flood damage to roads and bridges starting Friday.

Essick said there have been no missing person reports, deaths or serious injuries.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins advised residents in the flood areas to avoid contact with the water because it may contain human and animal waste, medical and household waste and sharp objects.

Guerneville residents who remained in their homes in the hills above Guerneville should continue to shelter in place, county officials said.

Permit Sonoma director Tennis Wick said 2,600 homes were impacted by the flood, and 30 teams of damage inspectors will work around the clock through the weekend inspecting properties. Permit Sonoma will open a local assistance center in Guerneville for residents to get permits to repair their homes, Wick said. No homes have been yellow- or red-tagged yet, he said.

Sonoma County director of emergency management Christopher Godley warned residents to be aware of potential mudslides as water continues to percolate in the soil.

County officials estimate 3,600 people lived in the flood zone and another 3,000 to 4,000 live in community islands that are cut off by water and road closures.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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