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A Ruined Town Cleans Up, Vows Not to Die With PM-Storms Rdp Bjt

February 21, 1986

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ When the Russian River finally backed down after nine days of ferocious storms, it left its mark just under the rooftop rain gutters at the Southside Resort.

Five of the 19 cabins were knocked off their foundations, and one was cut in half by a fallen redwood, causing an estimated $300,000 in damages.

Like most of his neighbors, owner Pete Sheridan had no insurance. He said he let his policy lapse last month because he couldn’t afford the premiums.

But as he hosed away the mud Thursday with brown water pumped from the still-swollen river he vowed to rebuild.

″This town won’t die. There’ll be no tombstones when you come into Guerneville,″ Sheridan said.

More than 1,000 evacuees returned to the slippery, mud-caked streets of this ruined resort 70 miles north of San Francisco to assess damage, begin cleaning up and think about starting over after its worst flood in history.

Hundreds of elderly people remained with family or friends or in an evacuation center in Santa Rosa 20 miles away.

At least 500 of Guerneville’s 2,000 homes were damaged, officials said. Dozens were destroyed. Splintered lumber floated in pools on the edge of the racing river. Cars, trucks and a schoolbus lay mired in mud with water over their hoods.

Thursday began with sunshine and a rainbow. By midday, the rains came again, beating down on grim residents as they pulled soaked mattresses, broken refrigerators and other items into the street.

The town’s most famous business, F. Korbel & Bros Inc., which sells $50 million of high quality champagne a year, suffered much damage, said William H. Botkin, vice president of marketing. About one-third of its 450 acres of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes were inundated.

″We had a lot of damage from debris coming down the river, knocking down vines,″ Botkin said. ″We’ll have to replant some vines. This was worse than the floods of ’64 and and ’55. But we’ve always felt the floods replenish the soil. In the end, the flood may do more good for us than harm.″

Others, though, were virtually wiped out.

The Little Bavaria Restaurant, a gourmet establishment famous in the area for its collection of European antiques, will be forced to move, perhaps to another town.

″We lost some priceless heirlooms that we had collected over the past 15 years,″ said owner Anthony Haar. ″We lost $100,000 to $150,000 in antiques and two or three times that in equipment and lost business. We had only $10,000 of insurance because nobody would insure us. The health department says we have to throw out all our wines.″

More than 6 feet of water flooded the restaurant, and the building has begun buckling.

″We have no idea what we’re going to do,″ Haar said. ″We’ll reopen somewhere, but not in this place. Maybe we’ll go to San Francisco.

″But I really feel most bad about the people here who have nothing left. We at least have a name we can travel with. So many people we know were just destroyed.″

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