Atmospheric rivers test Marin’s flooding infrastructure


Cesar Maldonado

Archie Williams students walk through rain puddles in between class periods.

In the early weeks of the new year, a series of “atmospheric rivers” hit the state of California, leading to record rainfall and extreme flooding. First responders, charged with protecting Marin residents, faced logistical rain-related issues, such as road closures and power outages. Additionally, residents adapted to trying circumstances that lead to electricity issues  and structural flooding. 

At Archie Williams, recent storms and consistent power outages have affected educators and students alike. These long-lasting power outages impaired chemistry teacher Dr. Elizabeth Geler’s ability to plan lessons in advance.  

Pathways through the Archie Williams campus flood due to a series of atmospheric rivers. (Cesar Maldonado)

It affects me in all ways, and it is not just affecting me but also my students. I cannot be completely prepared for the next day’s class because I do not have internet access,” Geler said. 

Many concerns aside from power outages hurt California communities, with Marin being recognized as a “flood-prone county” according to the Pacific Sun. Due to the history of Marin’s flooding, many inhabitants are no strangers to flooding preparation.

Benjamin Herbertson, Ross Valley Fire Department’s engineer, and acting captain, has seen an increase in calls due to flood-related problems. Geler and Herbertson both concluded that their workload during these storms increased. When they aren’t able to accommodate this workload due to weather, it affects others. 

“Our normal call volume consists of many things including fires, medical calls, traffic accidents, and public assists. During these storm days, we run all of our normal calls, coupled with storm-related calls as well. Some of these expanded incident types include flooding, trees down, powerlines down, landslides, and numerous other storm-related calls,” Herbertson said. 

The San Anselmo Creek flows next to the Archie Williams campus. (Cesar Maldonado)

The storms continue to endanger civilians’ well-being even after the precipitation ends, due to the saturation of the ground leading to mudslides and unstable ground conditions. Both of these issues damage the stability of businesses and homes as buildings and infrastructure collapse around the community. 

“The ground becomes oversaturated which brings the potential of mudslides and debris flows. The saturated ground may also cause trees to uproot and fall onto roadways and/or properties,” said Ruben Martin, Central Marin fire marshal. 

Marin residents have many resources to make their lives more manageable and secure. Professionals express the importance of sandbags to protect houses as well as clearing drains of debris. As these storms repeat themselves and increase in severity due to the effects of climate change, the community must prepare for future catastrophes.