NOVATO (KPIX) – Marin County has declared a state of emergency due to flooding around Highway 37 and the mudslides in Sausalito.
The problems started on Thursday when strong storms and heavy rains battered the North Bay causing a levee near the Highway 37 to give way.
Flood waters filled nearby fields, eventually coming up over the westbound lanes of Highway 37. Heavy equipment operators were bringing in hundreds of tons of boulders and dirt to build a makeshift dam near the roadway.
“This breach allowed a large volume of water from Novato Creek to exit and fill up these lands over here,” said Ernest Klock, the Assistant Director for Marin County Public Works.
Normally Novato Creek drains into the bay, but Thursday morning millions of gallons of water from the creek overwhelmed the levee under the railroad tracks running parallel to the highway.
As the fields flooded, water started rushing over the road. The California Highway Patrol had to close Highway 37, and commuters had to take the long way home.
“We have so much of our workforce coming in from that East Bay and so what it creates is more traffic on the Richmond Bridge because they have to go an alternative route,” said Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel.
That’s why Marin County public works crews were working around-the-clock to build the temporary dam.
“We’re going to stop the intrusion of water here, and once that’s done, the pumps can start catching up,” said Klock.
It could take up to a week for those pumps to empty the estimated 650 million gallons of flood water out of the nearby fields.
“We probably have spent over a million dollars on our response to the storm, both in staffing and this temporary levee is going to cost around $500,000,” said Hymel.
That’s part of the reason why Marin County administrators declared a State of Emergency. It will allow the county to receive mutual aid from the state and also additional state and federal funding to help pay for all the added costs.
“We’ll have more damage that we’re going to need to fix in the coming weeks, so it’s a pretty significant event,” said Hymel.
County Public Works crews will be working 24 hours a day to get the temporary dam finished by Monday. At that point, Caltrans can begin pumping the flood waters out of the area.
It could take up to a week for the flood waters to go down, assuming the area isn’t battered with another round of storms.
The westbound lanes of Highway 37 will be closed until the roadway is clear again. There is one eastbound lane currently open.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to ratify the State of Emergency declaration.