Mean High Tide

I’ve found downtown a little local bank, Summit, with an ATM that i’m using to get my cash so the ATM fee stays here.  Besides, it’s only $2.50.


It’s been difficult to get my head around the fact that as i’m typing this i’m living about fifteen feet above mean high tide.  The Petaluma River, the bank of which i can see about 25 yards away out my kitchen window, is really just a tidal estuary of San Pablo Bay fed by a few creeks, and at the Payran Street bridge a hundred yards south the tidal variation twice a day runs about six feet.

I find this fascinating.  Also fascinating is that as global warming progresses and sea levels rise, mean high tide will get meaner.

But that will be after my time.  Of more immediate interest in the face of this year’s escalating El Niño is the question of flooding.  The good news is that the Petaluma River watershed drains only 146 square miles, so the possibility of massive floods is negligible.  Hell, there hasn’t even been a minor one since way back in 2014, and that wasn’t in my area.

Here’s a video compilation of Petaluma floods in which you can see, just down the street from me, the corner of Payran and Jess under four feet of water.

Not to worry now, of course, as the Army Corps of Engineers has taken precautions to protect downtown from flooding, so they built this flood control barrier in the riverbed after the 1987 flood.  Here it is at near high tide.

Flood control barrier


And here’s a flood wall they put up, seen shortly after low tide.

Flood wall


That barrier and the beginning of the flood wall are about 50 yards south of my apartment.  The Dutch have taught us that an important aspect of flood control is to leave some areas vulnerable so as to protect the important parts.   So yes, if someone has to be sacrificed for the common good, it might as well be the unproductive old like me.

I eagerly await the anticipated deluge this winter and hope to get some good photos.  I’ll swallow the chip out of my camera before i go under, so tell ’em to do an autopsy and find it.

And on a lighter note, i’ve just discovered something i was not conscious of missing  in San Francisco – stars.  Owing to the ubiquitous maritime haze and bright city lights, on a good night down there you can see four or five stars.  Up here, there are way too many to count. My goodness, you can even see constellations.

And while i’m at it, there is something i’ve started missing about the city – the cold, brisk onshore wind that sends the tourists into huddled misery but which i came to first tolerate and then enjoy.

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  1. David Ogden
    Posted 15 October 2015 at 14:32 | Permalink

    Glad you’re prepared for El Niño. Eagerly awaiting it here in Walnut Creek, which hasn’t overflowed in decades due to all the cement poured by the Army Corps. Bastards.

    • Posted 15 October 2015 at 19:44 | Permalink

      Well, if the Corp just had to run around pouring concrete, the least they coulda done was to have kept pouring until they were upstream of me:-) And seriously, the flood plain broadens considerably just north of that barrier and the flood walls, so there’s lots of room for the waters to spread out and reduce the already very small risk they’d rise high enough to get me. Besides, i’ve made friends with the upstairs neighbors.

  2. ckm
    Posted 18 October 2015 at 19:58 | Permalink

    “ve found downtown a little local bank, Summit, with an ATM that i’m using to get my cash so the ATM fee stays here. Besides, it’s only $2.50.”

    Don’t you use USAA? In which case the fee they pay Summit is probably a lot less than what they pretend to charge you.

    • Posted 19 October 2015 at 06:17 | Permalink

      Of course i use USAA. The Segway and the Prius both wear proudly their “USAA Half Century Member” decals, and all my financial affairs are in the USAA basket. USAA does not have ATMs and refunds the fee i pay at anyone else’s ATM. And thanks for reminding me that i need to hit the Summit ATM this morning.

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