Back-Seat Driver

Sacramento, where streets become rivers

Water and leaves accumulate along Stockton Boulevard near Alhambra in Sacramento on Wednesday. Rain caused some minor flooding throughout the area.
Water and leaves accumulate along Stockton Boulevard near Alhambra in Sacramento on Wednesday. Rain caused some minor flooding throughout the area.

Commuters got a big-time reminder this week that flooding doesn’t happen only when creeks overflow or levees break.

With rain falling like darts, knocking leaves off trees and flushing them down the gutters into storm drain inlets, hundreds of neighborhood intersections, freeway ramps and roadsides turned into waterways Wednesday, stalling traffic. “You are cruising along, and you don’t see them coming – ponds that weren’t even there an hour ago,” said Sacramento Public Works Director Jerry Way.

The city of Sacramento got 600 calls during Wednesday’s storm, most of them reporting clogged drains. City officials are asking for a little help this winter: Residents should fill their yard waste containers with leaves first, before piling leaves in the street. If you do put leaves in the street, leave room at the curb for water to flow to the drain without pulling leaves with it.

Caltrans is hoping it won’t see a repeat of what happened Wednesday on I-80 at Watt Avenue and on Highway 99 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where pumps failed, causing water to pool 3 feet deep, stranding vehicles.

Caltrans’ Dennis Keaton says in heavy rains, have your lights on, stay back from the car ahead and drive slowly. If you see water pooling, slowly merge to the high side of the freeway. Police say turn off cruise control so your car won’t accelerate if your tires hydroplane.

Bridge and tunnel guys

It’s a marquee week for Mike McGowan, West Sacramento’s first mayor, and Steve Cohn, Sacramento’s longest-tenured council member, both recent retirees from elected life.

West Sacramento city officials today will inaugurate the new Mike McGowan Bridge on South River Road, connecting the city’s Bridge District with residential Southport over an old canal.

It’s fitting, says current Mayor Chris Cabaldon. McGowan, also a former Yolo County supervisor, is among the “salt-of-the-earth guys” who back in 1987 started the long process of turning West Sacramento into a real city by connecting walled-off neighborhoods and reconnecting to the riverfront. McGowan, a chatty guy, was nearly at a loss for words about the bridge naming: “I’m kind of embarrassed, and humbled, and proud.”

Cohn, who stepped off the dais this week after 20 years, was City Hall’s main advocate for communities where people walk, ride bikes and take trains. This week, officials announced they’re naming the pedestrian tunnel between the downtown train depot and passenger platforms the Steve Cohn Passageway.

McGowan has already been taking exercise walks past his bridge to check it out. Cohn says he’s excited about seeing the plaque, and excited about future transit-oriented development prospects in the old railyard: “It’s kind of a neat deal. Maybe now I’ll just hang out.”

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.