Marin history: San Anselmo’s 1982 flood sale
Courtesy of Marin History MuseumAfter San Anselmo’s 1982 flood, downtown merchants had a flood sale. By SCOTT FLETCHER | Marin History Museum February 4, 2019 at 12:00 pm This January’s rainy weather has conjured up wet and wild winter storms of the past for many Marin residents. The January flood of 1982 damaged many Marin homes and businesses, none more than in San Anselmo when 5 feet of water cut a devastating swath through downtown.
There had been more than 10 inches of rain in December when almost 14 inches of rain fell on Jan. 3 and 4. Longtime residents have no doubt seen the iconic photographs of the waters at flood stage, but the devastation had lasting effects as can be seen in this photograph, taken across the street from Town Hall.
Downtown merchants had a “Flood Sale” on Jan. 23 to try and recoup some losses and sell damaged goods that could no longer fetch retail prices. It wasn’t only businesses that suffered as the San Anselmo library’s lower floor was covered in 5 feet of mud that destroyed over 1,000 books.
The first floor of Town Hall and the Council Chambers were also severely impacted and needed extensive cleanup and repair. The Marin Independent Journal reported: “A river 5 feet deep roared down San Anselmo Avenue, consuming cars, flooding businesses … and along the avenue, windows began to explode, spilling goods into the torrent. San Anselmo Avenue was awash with yarn, bottles of vitamins, honey and toys. Damage to downtown businesses was put at more than $4 million.”
Ludwig’s liquor and tobacco store, seen in the background, survived though many other businesses did not. San Anselmo now has an early warning system for downtown merchants and residents and many businesses have installed floodgates at their entrances to mitigate flood damage. However, efforts are still underway to capture more runoff upstream and also widen the San Anselmo Creek channel. Once completed it is hoped that these efforts will prevent future flooding from packing such a destructive punch to the downtown area.
History Watch is written by Scott Fletcher, a volunteer at the Marin History Museum, marinhistory.org. Images included in History Watch are available for purchase by calling 415-382-1182 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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