Looking at the images of the huge storm battering Northern California today, I’m reminded of a massive storm that struck while I was living in the San Francisco area.
It was Friday the 13th (really), November 1981 and I was working at my bank job in Rossmoor, California. A huge storm had come in during the day and I kept my ear glued to the radio at work, wondering whether I would be able to drive home (I traveled the 4 highway to my apartment in Pinole). There was talk of mud slides, driving rain, etc. Well, finally, 6:00 p.m. arrived. The bank closed and I started home.
The rain was driving very hard. I turned on my windshield wipers and one promptly broke. I pulled into a gas station and got a new blade, then started home again. The normally 30-minute drive took me more than two hours. The downpour was so thick I couldn’t even see the front of my car let alone the road. So, I drove very slowly. I drove around a couple small mud slides, other road debris, etc. I don't remember seeing any other cars at all (who would be so stupid as to be on the road in THAT weather?).
Finally, I got close to home and came over the hill that would lead me down into Pinole. I looked and saw nothing. Nothing at all. Where there should have been lights (from the houses and the huge oil refinery near by) there was nothing. I was disoriented until it dawned on me that the power had gone out in all the cities in the area (San Pablo, Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, etc.). I made my way toward my apartment through the rain and howling wind. I got into my apartment and relished being safely out of the storm for the first time in hours. It was nearly 9:00 p.m.!
Later I found out I had driven through the biggest storm to hit San Francisco in years. It was the first storm identified as part of what would later be known as the "El Nino" effect.