SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Heavy rain Saturday afternoon caused a flash flood in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood and the next day, residents were digging out and wondering why the city was nowhere to be found.
When the sudden deluge began, John Keoppel was eating at a restaurant on West Portal Avenue. He took a video as the street quickly became a river.
“The rain was coming down harder than I can ever remember and we’ve lived in this neighborhood for 30 years,” he said. “One of the workers at the restaurant said ‘We’re in Venice!’ And it was funny until I started thinking, well, where is all this water going to go?”
It flowed to the corner of Wawona Street and 15th Avenue. All that water in so short a time overwhelmed the storm drains and brought raw sewage up into a 3-foot deep toxic soup, flooding garages and the bottom floor of homes.
“Within minutes…we didn’t have time to do anything,” said homeowner Erika Cervantes. “All we had time to do was take my kids upstairs and that’s it. Everything down here got destroyed.”
On Sunday, neighbors were cleaning up and dragging their ruined possessions out into the driveway. Christine Totah lost things that cannot be easily replaced.
“My kids’ baby pictures, my kids’ yearbooks, my yearbooks,” she said sadly.
She says while the downpour may have been unexpected, the vulnerability of the neighborhood is well known to the city of San Francisco. The Department of Public Works dropped off pallets of sandbags the week before Thanksgiving, but Totah says no one came out to clear the storm drains and believes they are partially plugged up.
And she says, as of Sunday afternoon, no one from the city had been back to view the damage.
“The city should be out here surveying this, looking at this, photographing how high the water came up on our houses. They’re not here,” she said.
That may be important to the neighbors because normal homeowner’s insurance does not cover flooding caused by nature, but it could be a different story if the flooding occurs due to human negligence. The flooding affected about a dozen homes on both sides of 15th Avenue.