Heavy Rains Turn Cars into Submarines at 101 Hairball Onramp


The (much welcomed) rains were intense last night — so much so that a storm drain for the Hairball interchange clogged up and flooded the 101 South onramp from eastbound Cesar Chavez.

When I drove past the site at about 8:45 am this morning, the onramp was closed and a DPW crew was vacuuming out the offending storm drain with a giant sucker-truck.

But a tweet from Neighbor Brian informed us that the flooding had been so intense before sunrise that a few cars became thoroughly submerged:

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 10.28.38 AM

Meanwhile, Neighbor Anita reports things looked similar around the Alemany 101/280 Spaghetti Bowl:


PHOTO: @brianhollinger

18 thoughts on “Heavy Rains Turn Cars into Submarines at 101 Hairball Onramp

  1. Likewise on the Alemany ramps and underpasses — there was a car still stuck there this morning in the deepest part, and debris/mud all over the roadway.

  2. Thanks to informative neighbors I took an alternate route. Monterey Blvd was flooded off San Jose Avenue. It was a mess everywhere!

  3. It is raining. There may be water.
    It is not mandatory to drive your car into a lake. It is totally optional.

  4. If there was ever a day for those stupid Duck Boat tour buses, today is that day.

    That area of roadway always seems to be wet, there is that crack in the road that is always leaking water, no matter how dry the drought. I am sure it is because it is the lowest point in the surrounding areas, but think it might also have to do with the old creek that ran through there. A path of least resistance for ground water.


    • Or for all of those small-wiener mobiles I always see east of Livermore. It never made sense why those trucks were 10 feet up in the air. Now it all makes sense…kinda

  5. I got to see that first hand at 330 this morning while going to get a wet vac after our apartment flooded! Also many of the man holes actually popped off from all the water pressure.

  6. Rule #1: Always watch the road. Rule #2: Do not drive into an area that looks flooded unless you know that the water is shallow. That onramp is notorious for its flooding. Under the pavement, it’s part of Islais Creek, after all. Islais Creek will always try to reclaim it.

  7. soooo…..my ?? is – how could DPT NOT make sure that sewer drain is always free from debris? for cryin’ out loud it’s a very low point in the road…did they think that it would NEVER rain again?
    also their offices/truck depot etc is RIGHT there.

    • I think you mean DPW, not DPT. I’m sure DPW has no clue that this spot is likely to flood. I mean, their 5-acre yard is a whole 300 feet east of that spot!

      • Waldo – Jaime does mean DPW, not DPT – but I am pretty sure that the ramp in question is Caltrans property (not City) and that the crew out there clearing the mess must have been from the State. As an employee of San Francisco Public Works it is always partly gratifying to be blamed when things go wrong, because I think it means people expect al lot from our Department… but in this case I don’t think we can take the blame for the lack of maintenance that led to the flooding on the ramp leading to the 101 or the credit for its eventual clearance (whenever that finally happens). I know it doesn’t matter to the public which agency is responsible when our City’s infrastructure is literally underwater, but if we want to avoid flooding at this location in the future we need to complain to Caltrans not DPW.

      • Anyone considered that this area might actually be managed by CalTrans. Or that “a few days ago” DPW might have been on holiday in large part (like most of the readers here, I’m betting).

        Take a look at how we staff our infrastructure departments: thinly. We do all of our infrastructure upgrades as capital improvements, funding them through bonds and using contract workers. We don’t budget much for maintenance with all of these investments. And we don’t staff our city services for anomalous years/events.

        We haven’t had a storm like this in a couple of years. There has been a huge amount of leaf and human litter accumulation as well as soil loss. All of that material is on the move with these rains and may become clogged in many parts of the sewer system.

        As a worker who was busting her tail to shunt runoff in the pouring rain all of yesterday morning, these comments smack of entitlement and ignorance. I’m gonna head to work now and try to repair some of the damage. Y’all stay inside and keep hating on your civil servants, identifying problems at the surface but failing to see how these issues relate to our choice as a city to be cheap with our infrastructure despite the VAST wealth that seeped into this town. Didn’t see that swirling the drains yesterday.

  8. Still flooded during my afternoon/evening commute — not sure what you call that intersection — it’s where you come off 101 and shoot straight under the freeway to end up near the Alameny market — it was closed off with cones around 5 today, and still under water.

  9. STILL THE FACT REMAINS that this onramp area can and will get flooded. Even if the sewer gratings had been cleared out a few days before, debris could wash into it and clog it up again. And, given the low point it could well be that the water table was so high that there simply was no place for the water to go.

    JEEEEZ! You guys blame everything on everybody else. I go through that area all the time. It was easy to see that the water was high. Instead of turning right as I often do to get onto Bayshore and make a U-turn to get onto 101 north, I drove under the overpass as far left as I could to avoid the water, and then turned around east of the structure. THIS ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE!

    Had the entire intersection been submerged, I’d have put my emergency flashers on and backed out of there.

    Use your head, folks! It is STUPID to drive into a puddle that deep.

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