Half of the block was protected by the plastic flooding stops this time at 17th and Folsom on March 9th. Photo by Chuqin Jiang

San Francisco woke up with lingering showers this morning. And, while wind warnings and a flood advisory remain in effect, this round of storms has been much lighter than the January deluge that created a nightmare for many businesses and residents near the Folsom and 17th Street area.

This time around, the businesses were prepared, but owners and managers were still hung up on the work they faced after the January storms. 

Betty Towers, who has been working in the nearby Stable Cafe for more than a decade, said the team spent a week and a half cleaning everything after the January storm. Prior to that downpour, the city failed to set up the barricades. 

“If the situation gets worse, we double down. Besides these big plastic ones, I will also put up our own metal barriers,” said Towers. In 2016, Towers added, the cafe had to close for four months because of flooding.

Staff at Stable Cafe set up a metal gate to keep the water out of the parklet area over the last weekend. If the water rises, the barricades can be extended. 

This metal gate was set up at the Stable Cafe’s parklet. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

Next door, Samuel Picazo, who has experienced decades of flooding at 17th and Folsom streets, had only a thin layer of stagnant water on his garage floor on Tuesday morning. He said he used a metal stick to clear the pipe in his backyard. That ensured the water drained away.

He got emotional when recalling the January floods. “All the tables, chairs are floating. My leg got injured when I tried to use the pumper. We contacted the city, but no one came to help,” said Picazo, showing the videos and photos from January and the water-level marks on his walls.

It took him, his wife and his brother a week to pump out the water and clean everything up.

Samuel Picazo pointed to the water level in January’s flooding. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
Samuel Picazo cleared the pipe to make sure water could go down smoothly. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

At Robin’s, a coffee shop at the corner of 17th and Shotwell streets, past where the plastic barriers stopped, Phirun Cheng said the city “doesn’t really do anything here” in an interview last Thursday.

“Even though we got flooding, and people down the street got flooding, too [in January]. But the city, even in the second heavy rain, did not put up barricades on this side of the street.”

His colleague, Enrique Espinoza, said he was reminded by the lady working at Mission Bowling Club across the street to pick up some sandbags.

“The city didn’t send out an alert. They should have told all businesses to come and get [the sandbags] over here,” complained Espinoza.

Although the rains failed to come with the vigor that everyone predicted, the Department of Emergency Management has activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center to coordinate citywide operations, to include clearing storm drains, distributing sandbags, responding to fallen trees, and keeping San Franciscans informed about what actions they should take in preparation and through the storms.

Here is a list of resources for this storm, and others in the future. 

Who to contact

  • Stay informed
    • Sign up for AlertSF by texting your zipcode to 888-777 to receive real-time emergency alerts
    • Tune in to KCBS (740 AM or 106.9 FM), local TV channels, or social media (@sf_emergency; @MySFPUC; @sfpublicworks; @sf_dph) for emergency advisories and instructions.  
    • For updated forecasts, visit the National Weather Service.  
  • Call 9-1-1 if there are police, fire, and medical emergencies that impact life and safety, and for downed power lines and gas leaks. 
  • Call 3-1-1, use the SF311 mobile app, or go to sf311.org if there are issues that are not life-threatening, such as:
    • Clogged catch basins  
    • Non-life-threatening street and residential flooding  
    • Sewer backups or wastewater odors  
    • Downed trees 

Sandbag distribution

Public Works will distribute up to 10 free sandbags per property at the Public Works Operations Yard at 2323 Cesar Chavez St. Members of the public can enter at the Kansas Street/Marin Street gate and will need to load the sandbags into their vehicles on their own, with limited exceptions. Bring proof of address. Sandbags also are sold at many local hardware and home improvement stores. 

Used sandbags can be dropped at 501 Tunnel Ave. from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., before April 29. Notice the sandbags can be stored and reused, but do not dump them in regular bins or leave them in the sidewalks.

Help clean the drains

If you want to make contributions to keep your neighborhood from flooding, sign up for the Adopt-a-drain program. Nearly 6,441 storm drains have been adopted by more than 4,538 volunteers that help keep the drains clear of leaves, debris, and trash that could otherwise clog the system.

Flood insurance

Residents and businesses can purchase flood insurance, and apply for the SFPUC’s Floodwater Grant Program, which reimburses eligible property owners for 100 percent of eligible costs (capped at $100,000) for implementing projects that help minimize the risk of flooding. 


In advance of the storm, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has made additional shelter beds available at:   

  • MSC South (525 5th St.)  
  • Next Door (1001 Polk St.)  
  • Sanctuary (201 8th St.)  

These beds can be accessed by walking-up on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 4 p.m. daily. For more information please visit here

Checklist during a storm

  • Check your supplies list and make sure you have what you need on hand
  • Check on friends and family who may need assistance preparing for the storm, especially the elderly, home-bound, or neighbors with disabilities.  
  • Remove debris and sweep up any leaves from sidewalks and storm drains to keep them from getting clogged. 
  • Elevate business inventory or personal belongings in garages or basements.  
  • Avoid driving during heavy rains and winds. If you have to be out, stay away from flooded areas and downed power lines, whether in a car or on foot. Do not drive through water more than six inches deep.  
  • If the power goes out, unplug and turn off appliances. Leave one light on to signal when power is restored. Avoid using candles during power outages to prevent fire hazards. Use flashlights or headlamps instead.  
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.  
  • After the flood, check your home or business for flood damage and contact your insurer or landlord. Information about how to file a claim for injury, property damage or loss caused by the City and County of San Francisco can be found at sfcityattorney.org/claims or by calling (415) 554-3900. Claims filed will be investigated and evaluated by the City Attorney’s Office Claims Division.  
  • If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, call 9-1-1. Then call PG&E at (800) 743-5000.  
  • Keep children and pets away from floodwaters, and avoid outdoor areas that have been recently flooded. Remove shoes and wipe paws before returning indoors.  
  • If the power is off, throw away all discolored or foul-smelling food, especially meat, poultry, and fish in the refrigerator. Freezer foods may last from 48 to 72 hours if the freezer is full, and the door remains closed. If in doubt, throw it out. 

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INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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  1. Yes, the people in apartments between the Sable and 17th St got hit hard on Dec 31 and needed someone to draw attention to their plight.
    The sewer flooding extended as far the Rainbow Grocery on Folsom and 13th, four blocks north, at to Best But at 14th and Harrison. All of the people from the small shops ,businesses and residences between 18th and 13th St tell the same story: the City failed them. We will end up paying for the damage they caused.

    1. “the City failed them”.

      There is a limit to what the city can do, given that this area is the lowest lying part of the city, and given that water runs downhill very reliably.

      Presumably rents and property prices there are cheaper because everyone knows of the flood risk?