The flood of 2019: the laguna comes to town
By Laura Hagar Rush, Sonoma West Editor, [email protected] Mar 6, 2019

Excerpts - Full article here

The flood of 2019 didn’t penetrate very far into Sebastopol, but it wreaked havoc in its wake nonetheless, swamping most of The Barlow shopping district, inundating a low-lying neighborhood on Flynn Street as well as Sebastopol’s low-income and homeless housing site, Park Village, and the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center on Morris Street.

Flooding in The Barlow
Sebastopol’s exclusive shopping district, The Barlow, suffered some of the worst devastation, and the damage was directly related to where in The Barlow a business was located. Stores along the eastern edge, close to the laguna, like the elegant clothing store Tamarind, were completely inundated. Andrea Kenner, Tamarind’s owner, estimated her loss at about $150,000.

Further up McKinley, the water was lower but just as destructive. Jacki Wilson is the owner of Two Dog Creamery, an ice cream shop. On Friday morning, after the water receded, she stood in the muddy ruins of her store, looking shell-shocked.

“It’s hard to believe that four feet of water could do all this,” she said, gesturing at a large industrial refrigerator that the waters had picked up and dumped over on its side. “We can’t pick it up yet because it’s still full of floodwater.”

A few doors down, Gia Baiocchi stood blinking at the silt-covered remains of her shop, Nectary.
“I’m shocked,” she said. “It’s just so hard to believe.”

Two doors over, Village Bakery was a total loss, red tagged by the county. The owners declined to be interviewed for this article, but a post to their Instagram said it all:

“Never in a million years did Patrick and I believe we would be in the place we are today. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support our community has shown us over the last 48 hours. Yesterday we laid off 60 employees, and it broke our hearts. A business is only as good as its people, and it does take a village … our staff is our family in every way that counts. Village will be closed indefinitely until we are able to get back on our feet.”

One block further west on McKinley, Adele Stoll took stock of the damage that even a small amount of water — just one foot — could wreak. Her store, Adele Stoll, sold handbags, jewelry and housewares, all hand-made by Stoll.

“Out of all the businesses in the Barlow, I’m probably the luckiest,” she said, looking back on that morning a few days later.

She lost her stock and her materials in her studio, but her desk was set on cinderblocks, which the water didn’t budge, so she didn’t lose her computer.


It was supposed to be “a self-executing plan,” according to Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin, by which he meant, it was supposed unfold automatically as the floodwaters reached certain milestones.
The Barlow did a run-through of its plan on Dec. 1, 2012. It took 50 workers 11 hours to install all the flood logs throughout The Barlow. ...The video shows workers calmly installing flood logs under a bright blue sky in the middle of the day.

Conditions were considerably different at the end of February, when, late on Tuesday, Feb. 26, a smaller crew of workers went to work in the dark and driving rain, as the waters of the laguna rose quickly, first flooding Morris Street and then creeping foot by foot into the heart of The Barlow.


“We don’t know why, but it looks like they were a bit late putting the flood prevention measures they’d planned into place,” said McLaughlin in the immediate aftermath of the flood.

For some, the logs were installed on time, but not high enough. “Our logs were three feet high,” said Two Dog Creamery’s Jacki Wilson. “Unfortunately, the water was four to five feet deep.”

Reached on Monday, McLaughlin was still surprised at how the disaster unfolded.

“The plan definitely should have worked,” he said. “I was here at the inception and when it was being developed. It was a well-developed plan, a practiced plan, that was supposed to automatically go into action when certain milestones were reached. The city will definitely be looking into what happened here.”
He didn’t want to speculate on what might have gone wrong.

“There’s a lot of hard feelings and some people have lost a lot of money. You don’t have to be a legal scholar to see that this could become a legal matter,” said McLaughlin, who is also the city attorney.

Looking forward

Some of The Barlow’s tenants hope it won’t come to that.

“I’d much rather look forward,” Adele Stoll said. “I don’t want The Barlow to be trashed because I want to continue to do business there in the future … The Barlow is a really special place, and it shouldn’t be defined by what happened on one day.”

“My mission is to make clear that this was an incredible place before, and it’s a special place now, even in the middle of this. My goal is to see that we’re able to pull together and find something positive and then move forward. We’ll be richer for the experience rather than having it break us down.”

Lori Austin, who owns an art gallery in The Barlow in the same block as Stoll, agrees.


Austin said she is confident that the owners of The Barlow will pay for the flood damage to the businesses’ interiors. Barlow owner and developer Barney Aldridge wasn’t available for comment for this article, in part, he said, because he was busy working with multiple cleaning and flood remediation companies.


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