Just a little over a week into the new year and Martinez experienced its first flood in a decade.
After days and days of heavy rains saturating the surrounding hills and several king tides, Alhambra Creek surpassed its capacity to drain the watershed, and overflowed its banks near the D Street/Shell Avenue Bridge near the Teamsters Building.
The overflow found its natural flow point, surging down Castro Street and Alhambra Avenue toward downtown and the Martinez Waterfront.
The runoff from the hills to the east and west joined the newly formed rivers leaving behind a layer of mud and gravel in the neighborhoods it passed through.
Once the water arrived in the downtown area, it surged along Main Street flooding the 500, 600 and 700 blocks. Water also continued down to the waterfront and spilled back into Alhambra Creek at Marina Vista and the City maintenance yard.
Most downtown homeowners, business and property owners were prepared with plywood, plastic and sandbags blocking doors and other openings in their buildings. After the water receded, it left behind a mess of mud, gravel and debris.
City crews worked all night and into the early morning to control the rising waters and direct it out to the river. They immediately started the cleanup and then returned early the next day to make sure the downtown was free of mud, and businesses could open.
Unfortunately, the inundation damaged some underground electrical equipment and only minor electrical power was available until PG&E crews could make the needed repairs later in the evening.
After finishing the downtown, cleanup crews moved into neighborhoods throughout the city to do the same. Crews scooped up mud and debris into trucks, and fire hoses were used to wash down sidewalks, and street sweepers made passes back and forth to clean the asphalt.
It took about a week of long hours and hard, back-breaking work to recover from the flood of 2017, which is amazing considering the size of the area to be cleaned and the amount of mud and debris that was removed.
Because the city was prepared with preventative maintenance of storm drains, removing obstructions in Alhambra Creek, and having a plan to deal with the possibility of flooding, damage was kept to a minimum and the cleanup was efficient and well-organized.
I have been asked why there was a flood at all since the city spent millions of dollars on a downtown flood control project that runs from Ward Street to the Carquinez Strait.
The answer is that the improvements did what they were designed to do, carry water from the downtown out to the river.
Downtown flooded this year because of the overflow that occurred at D Street and Shell Avenue, over a mile upstream.
The rain has been a welcome gift after so many years of drought, but hopefully we will have a break for a while to recover and prepare for what looks like more wet weather to come.
Rob Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.