Storm surge causes flooding and evacuations in Stinson Beach
Unrelenting California storms combined with a treacherous high tide caused major flooding and property damage in the beloved coastal community of Stinson Beach on Thursday. Approximately 22 structures were damaged when a 20-25 foot wave crashed into the Calles area of Stinson Beach.
Three individuals had to be rescued during the flooding, Jessi Peri, chief of the Stinson Beach Fire Protection District, told SFGATE. There were no reports of injured or missing persons.
Shocking videos posted on social media show how quickly the ocean surged into residential areas of Stinson Beach.
More CA flood impacts – in Stinson Beach (north of SF).
This storm is dangerous, stay safe! pic.twitter.com/wMu8x83Ics
— Daniel Villaseñor (@dvillasenorCA) January 5, 2023
Stinson Beach, CA – video from my parents (they evacuated). pic.twitter.com/dzCCxJvEqO
— Sammy Herdman (@Sammy_Herdman) January 6, 2023
Before the flooding, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for homes between Calle Del Pinos to Calle Del Occidental, a section of blocks by the sea. As the water rose, houses on Calle Del Arroyo also had to be evacuated. The Stinson Beach Community Center was opened as a temporary evacuation point.
Perry, who has lived in Stinson for most of his life, said it was “definitely the worst we’ve ever seen” since he joined the fire department. According to Perry, you have to go back to 1982 to find an example of comparable flooding.
As devastating as the storm surge was, it could have been far worse had response teams not been prepared for the onslaught. The Stinson Beach Fire Protection District is a very small, partially volunteer department. As such, they needed significant support from other agencies during the worst floods.
“We were extremely fortunate that Marin County had completed Office of Emergency Services rescue teams organized throughout the county. And every single one of them ended up responding to Stinson that day,” Peri said.
He also highlighted the Marin County Search and Rescue teams at the sheriff’s office, the Marin County Fire Department, the Marin Water District and the Marin County Department of Public Works for their efforts in preventing further damage. In all, about 90 first responders were called to Stinson during the flooding.
Even with all the help, Perry said his fire department had been working essentially around the clock since Wednesday. He praised local residents and the “neighbor-by-neighbor” efforts to get people out of harm’s way.
Robert McClain, an employee at Stinson Beach Surf and Kayak who witnessed the flooding firsthand, was one such neighbor.
The surf shop opened its parking lot, which is on higher ground and is naturally protected from ocean waves, to local residents ahead of the storm. McClain estimated that over 30 cars parked in the parking lot Thursday night. He also helped an evacuee woman and her dogs wade through debris and return to their home after the floods.
The exterior of Stinson Beach Surf and Kayak.
McClain praised the “incredible community support and community efforts” by professional first responders and local residents in preventing further damage.
“The local fire department was here and [Marin] Mass County Fire Department. I mean, they just landed in this area. They had people from search and rescue from all over the county who were on their hands and knees yesterday, digging sand into bags and filling them for local residents,” McClain said in a phone interview with SFGATE.
Tides are becoming less extreme, which should mitigate the risk of ocean flooding moving forward. But that doesn’t mean Stinson is figuratively or literally out of the water just yet. Two more storms are scheduled to hit Northern California in the coming days.