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New year’s rainfall busts records, creates chaos in SF

Flooding at Toland and Galvez has stranded a car and stopped several Muni buses in the Bayview. | Jonah Lamb/The Standard

With today’s heavy rains, San Francisco has shattered two wet weather records and may be on track to crack a third by the time the clock strikes midnight and the city rings in 2023. 

As of this afternoon, Downtown San Francisco had already surpassed the daily record of 2.12 inches set in 2005 with 5.33 inches of rain and claimed the title of second rainiest day in the history of the city’s downtown core, according to the National Weather Service. Downtown Oakland also experienced a record-setting rainfall day, surpassing the daily record of 1.81 inches in 2005, with 3.69 inches and rising. 

But it’s not over until 2022 is fully out the door. Downtown San Francisco could see its rainiest day ever by the time the new year starts. With .21 inches of rain to go, the rainfall record of 5.54 inches held by Nov. 5, 1994, is within sight. 

“Currently it’s the second rainiest day in Downtown San Francisco history,” said Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay Area Forecast office.  “We won’t have the actual final number until the clock strikes 12 tonight. […] So while everyone’s kissing, we’re going to be looking at the rain gauge.”

Flooding at Toland and Galvez has stranded a car and stopped several Muni buses in the Bayview. | Jonah Lamb/The Standard

“Records go back 170 plus years. So it’s pretty incredible to see this much rain,” ABC7 meteorologist Drew Tuma told The Standard this afternoon. “To put it in perspective, all of this rain has really fallen in a 13-hour window from midnight this morning to 1 p.m. So that is an incredible amount of rain to have and just 13 hours.”

And the record-setting rainfall did not go without notice in the city, causing widespread flooding across San Francisco today, and even some mudslides.

“A lot of roads are impassable,” Tuma said. “So it’s pretty, pretty powerful how much rain can do in such a short amount of time.”

While meteorologists can’t confidently say that Downtown San Francisco will surpass the all-time rainfall high just yet, it is certainly a possibility, said Bingaman. 

“I think we’re going to get very, very close,” Tuma said.  “You could say 2022 is certainly ending on an incredibly wet note.” 

You could also say San Francisco’s wet New Year’s Eve is a prelude to more wet weather in 2023. Another atmospheric river is expected to arrive in the Bay Area around Jan. 4, according to the Tuma and the National Weather Service. 

“It’s going to be a messy start to 2023,” Bingaman said. 

As to whether you should go out this New Year’s Eve, Tuma recommends staying home even though rainfall is expected to taper off by nightfall. The San Francisco Fire Department is also urging San Franciscans to avoid driving.  

“It’s going to take hours for all of this water we have on our freeways and our roads to subside,” Tuma said. “Even though the rain is over—like it’s actively not raining tonight—there’s still going to be areas where you can’t cross these roads because this water’s taking its time subsiding.”