Fri 4 Jan 2008
The first of three expected weekend storms blew through West Marin Friday, causing flooding, toppling trees, and closing roads.
Matt Gallagher of Point Reyes Station (using a shovel for a paddle) and Tony Smith check on Jim and Kathy Love’s levee road home. The Loves years ago raised their home on high stilts, so the living area stays dry regardless of what nearby Papermill and Olema creeks do.
Friday’s wind speed was at least as high as an East Coast hurricane.
On the Beaufort Scale used by mariners, winds reach hurricane force at 74 mph. The National Weather Service considers winds to have reached hurricane force at 80 mph. At 8:33 a.m. Friday, a National Weather Service monitoring station on Big Rock Ridge just east of Nicasio clocked the wind holding steady at 83 mph.
Exactly 23 minutes later, county firefighters received a call that a 50-foot-high tree had been blown onto a house at 25 Drakes Summit Rd. in Inverness Park. Although there was “major damage” to the home, no one was injured, Fire Capt. Joe Morena told me. He added that the house was sturdily built.
The backstop, infield, and outfield were flooded by Olema Creek Friday at Love Field next to the home of Jim and Kathy Love.
At least four inches of rain fell in much of Marin County, swelling West Marin Creeks, which flooded roadways. Around noon, Highway 1 was flooded between Point Reyes Station and Olema and between Bolinas and Stinson Beach. Papermill/Lagunitas Creek flooded Platform Bridge Road and (briefly) the Point Reyes Petaluma Road just east of Highway 1.
Calle Arroyo in Stinson Beach flooded, and Panoramic Highway leading over Mount Tamalpais from town was closed by fallen trees near Mountain Home Inn. Fallen trees also closed Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
Gary Cheda, owner of Cheda’s Garage in Point Reyes Station, told me his towtrucks pulled two cars and a van off flooded Highway 1 just south of town.
Gary said motorists increase their chance of stalling if they don’t proceed slowly on flooded pavement. Driving faster kicks up water into the engine compartment. When water gets into the cylinders, it can’t be compressed and piston rods are bent, he explained.
Although the creeks are not saltwater, Gary noted, they nonetheless are brown with “grit,” which also is bad for car engines. Grit can into engine rings and seals where it sometimes causes expensive problems, he said.
In addition to flooding, fallen trees and limbs that blocked roads made driving difficult throughout West Marin Friday. The fire captain told me county firefighters from the Point Reyes Station firehouse spent much of Friday clearing away downed trees.
After this cypress tree blew down across Highway 1 on the north side of Point Reyes Station Friday morning, county firefighters partly reopened the road, but the northbound lane remained blocked all afternoon while firefighters and Caltrans dealt with crises elsewhere.
Broken limbs also brought down powerlines, and parts of Nicasio were without power for a day and a half. Olema and parts of Inverness experienced shorter blackouts. Overall, relatively few West Marin residents experienced more than momentary blackouts compared with residents of East Marin (especially Sausalito, Mill Valley, and Fairfax).
Nonetheless, downed powerlines can be shocking, and this one at Cypress and Overlook roads in Point Reyes Station sparked a (very small) fire notwithstanding the rain.
Art and Laura Rogers of Mesa Road in Point Reyes Station found their road flooded by Tomasini Creek at noon Friday and had to take another route downtown.
Not only did downed lines, fallen trees, and flooding make it difficult for motorists to leave West Marin, Sheriff’s. Lt. Doug Pittman issued a plea over KWMR for West Marin residents to stay at home. Over the hill, traffic was in “gridlock,” he said.
The problem again was high wind. Shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, it blew over five semi trucks traveling in both directions on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, leading to bridge closures off and on all afternoon. But that was not the worst of it.
Within an hour of overturning big rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the wind blew construction plywood and planks onto Highway 101 in San Rafael. Clearing away the construction material, which came from the new Highway 580 overpass, and making sure no more would blow down halted Highway 101 traffic for most of Friday afternoon.
At various times, vehicles were backed up 10 to 20miles in both directions on the freeway, and thousands of motorists detoured onto surface streets in East Marin.
Bad as the weather was in West Marin, most residents had reason to be prepared; the county fire department Thursday afternoon called virtually every household here with a recorded message that warned about the severity of the stormy weather to come.