Norwitz Notions

Norwitz Notions random header image

San Francisco to Petaluma in only 13 hours!

January 26th, 2008 · by Cyndi · 2 Comments

Wow, great time, Cyndi. Umm…wait a minute…aren’t those two cities only 35 miles apart?

That’s right, an hour drive turned into a 13 hour trip. Despite the nasty weather, Miriam and I drove to San Francisco yesterday around noon. The rain was pounding and visibility was pretty awful, so we drove slowly. Plus a piece of Park Presidio (a major road in SF) was shut and the detour added a few minutes. Still, we felt lucky to make it in just an hour and a half.

As I got ready to go home in the evening, I promised my hosts I would call 511 (local traffic advisory, also at before leaving, but of course I forgot. Shortly after crossing the Golden Gate, I heard on the radio that highway 101 (which I was on) was closed at the Novato Narrows (inbetween where I was and my house). I pulled off at an exit and called 511 to verify. Yep. Highway closed, travellers advised to avoid the area and take alternate routes.

Only there are no alternate routes. To the east you can take highway 37 to Lakeville highway (about 40 min detour with normal traffic) but Lakeville is a fast, dangerous (1 lane in each direction, no divider), rural road in the best of conditions, and it was still pouring rain with little visibility. And it turns out that 37 was flooded near 101 too (the news reports say they were able to divert traffic this way, but it took 2 hours!). To the west you can go through Novato and take Novato Blvd to the Petaluma Pt Reyes road to the D Street Extension into Petaluma (also about 40 mins extra) but it is dark, rural, and I had no way of knowing if it was even open.

Because the 101 closure happened at the north end of Novato, the next town up was Petaluma, about 12 miles away, with the next exit maybe 5 miles up. In a prolonged emergency, they could have routed northbound traffic (the only one affected by the flooding, though southbound flooded and closed elsewhere) into the southbound lanes. And maybe they did, but the radio and 511 didn’t say and the flashing sign they set up before the closure just said it was closed. (The news says the entire freeway had to be closed and no lanes were usable.)

So Miriam and I drove to a friend’s empty house in Novato (after getting gas and picking up the keys in San Rafael) and spent the night. Miriam managed to sleep through all of this. She was out maybe 5 mins after leaving our friend’s house in SF and didn’t wake up until I brought her inside. And what an angel. Not only was she polite and sweet (though needy) during my hours of helping a friend pack, but she woke right up in Novato and helped me traipse around the house looking for sheets.

We woke up this morning and the rain had stopped and the highway was open (though highway 37 and some others are still closed). At the place where the closure was reported, I could see why…the huge (multiple acres) lake to the east there must have overflowed its banks. Only there isn’t a lake there, just pasture. Most of the year anyway.

We got home at 9:30am, about 13 hours after leaving San Francisco. Thank God for cell phones and generous friends. It could have been a lot worse.


Press Democrat, Jan 26, 2008: Deluge closes 101 at county line

“As the water rose, freeway traffic was able to get by in single lanes, but by 8 p.m. the CHP was forced to close the highway entirely. Traffic was reported to be backed up for miles at times in both directions. Eventually, Highway 101 was closed between Petaluma and Atherton in Marin. Vehicles were stalled in water and had to be towed out”

Press Democrat, Jan 26, 2008: More showers on the way

“The Friday evening commute on Highway 101 turned to disastrous gridlock when the San Antonio Creek overflowed south of Petaluma. The highway, which was closed at 8 p.m., finally was opened to traffic at 5 a.m. this morning.”

Marin Independent Journal, Jan 25, 2008: Marin reels as slow storm keeps ‘pumping rain’

Drivers in both directions were diverted to Highway 37 and Sonoma County side roads, said Officer Tom Stewart of the California Highway Patrol. A drive time of more than 2 hours was reported between Novato and Petaluma.”


Categories: Travel · Weather
Tags: · , , ,

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Connie // Jan 30, 2008 at 12:16 am

    >>> To the west you can go through Novato and take Novato Blvd to the Petaluma Pt Reyes road to the D Street Extension into Petaluma (also about 40 mins extra) but it is dark, rural, and I had no way of knowing if it was even open. <<<<

    This would have been a horrendous choice on a stormy night!! So glad you didn’t try it!! The road runs right next to Stafford Lake, isn’t well lit, has lots of sharp turns and gets very wet and slippery in the rain…. plus large chunks of it (at least until you hit Petaluma/Pt Reyes) are a cell phone dead zone (on my phone, anyway.) Not place I’d choose to be when the water’s rising and emergency response systems are overloaded! Great that Miriam had an easy time of it – bet you’ll remember 511 in the future, though,huh?

  • 2 admin // Jan 30, 2008 at 12:39 am

    A very good point. My cell doesn’t even do Petaluma/Point Reyes Rd. It doesn’t kick in until the Petaluma city limits. There’s no doubt that we did the right thing spending the night in Novato.

Leave a Comment