Storms Take San Francisco by Surprise

Fourth-year English major Bella Pietro was getting ready to celebrate New Years Eve with some friends when the walls of her apartment in the Inner Richmond district began to fill with water, bringing the festivities to an abrupt halt. 

Dec. 31, 2022 was the second wettest day ever recorded in San Francisco history. The city, which usually averages 23.64 inches of rainfall a year, received an unprecedented 5.46 inches of rain in a single night. 

“It was raining really hard and as we were getting ready to leave, we started noticing these big bubbles of water filling the walls of my hallway and down the side of my roommate’s room.” Pietro said. “We had water dripping down our ceilings resulting in damage to our walls, floors and several of our power outlets.” 

While Pietro has concerns about the state of her apartment regarding managing repairs and the threat of mold, she said she considers herself lucky. “In the long run we were very fortunate and my heart goes out to people who were severely affected or displaced during this time.” 

Water floods the streets of the Richmond District during chaotic storms throughout California. PHOTO COURTESY OF NICOLE GONZALEZ-HOWELL

The Hilltop experienced a fair amount of water damage as well. In a statement to the Foghorn, Facilities Management Director of Operations Heather Hickman-Holland, stated that, “There was water intrusion in multiple buildings. Impacts included flooding, roof leaks, storm drain failures, and groundwater intrusion in basements and other below grade spaces.” 

Kalmanovitz Hall, Sobrato Center, Hayes-Healy ground floor and basement levels, Fromm Hall, and Pedro Arrupe Hall were subject to water damage during the storms. Additionally, in a Jan. 20 notice from Facilities Management the damage was described as “never previously observed in recent history.” 

However, Hickman-Holland assures the USF community that the damages are temporary and on the mend. “There are no long term threats or hazards from the storms,” she said, “Most of the repair work has been completed or is nearing completion.”

While USF is nearly restored, the rest of California still has a long way to go. The effects of the storm have been felt across the state, with 90% of California placed under flood watch as extreme rainfall and strong winds wreaked havoc on wildlife, homes, and small businesses, causing an estimated $46 million in damages. As of Jan. 18, a reported 22 California residents were killed as a result of the weather and its complications. 

In the Bay Area, several residents have faced displacement in the wake of the severe weather. In Oakland, over 300 residents who were forced to vacate their apartment complex as a result of extensive flooding and damage to the building’s electrical system in December continue to remain displaced a month later. 

Moving forward, the city has allocated over $600 million for flood prevention infrastructure projects throughout the city designed for especially vulnerable neighborhoods. 

However, this relief plan does not address the needs of San Francisco’s population of unhoused residents, who have been especially susceptible to the effects of the storm. City workers, such as police and firefighters, evicted a homeless encampment on Erie Street right before the worst of the storm hit on Jan. 4, according to the Washington Post

Fourth-year USF student Zac Clark runs a nonprofit called HomeMore that provides waterproof backpacks to unhoused people in the Tenderloin. “In recent months with record breaking rainfall, there is a significant importance in keeping our unhoused population out of the rain ensuring things like food, clothing, technology, and their tent or shelter stay dry,” he said. 

According to the Chronicle, there is an approximate population of over 7,500 unhoused people in San Francisco. Living outside in such extreme weather conditions poses serious risks as these individuals are directly exposed to the harsh elements. Two confirmed unhoused individuals have already died as a result of the storm, when trees collapsed on the victims’ tents. 

While the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has increased the number of shelter beds from 30 to 80 beds per night through March, the city is still reportedly 2,250 shelter units short

For those interested in supporting San Francisco’s unhoused population during this time, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Homeless Project has an extensive directory of nonprofit groups supporting this cause that are actively looking for donations and or volunteers. Students can also volunteer and donate to HomeMore on their website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *