County of Marin - News Releases - Emergency Declaration

For Immediate Release
February 16, 2019

Marin County Proclaims Local Emergency

Focus on storm damage at Highway 37 and Novato Creek

UPDATE 2/19/19: The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ratify the emergency proclamation at a special meeting February 19.

San Rafael, CA – The County of Marin proclaimed a local state of emergency on Friday evening, February 15, because of the severe impacts of storm damage from this week’s atmospheric river.

An aerial view of the flooding near Highway 37 in Novato on February 14, 2019.An aerial view of the flooding near Highway 37 in Novato on February 14.

The County is among several agencies assessing storm-related damage that took place February 14 in the baylands of eastern Novato, directly south of Highway 37. County engineers and personnel from several other agencies are analyzing embankments and levees with a goal of mitigating stormwater effects on the nearby properties and roadways, including Highway 37, which remained closed Saturday morning. Travelers are urged to monitor for updated information.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has jurisdiction over Highway 37 and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) has jurisdiction over the railway and land that runs along the south side of the highway. The impacted railway is for freight trains and runs east-west parallel to Highway 37. Those tracks are distinct from primary SMART commuter tracks, which are not impacted by this situation.

The County Administrator is recommending that the County Board of Supervisors ratify the proclamation at a special Board meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, February 19. The ratified proclamation would be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom and the State of California Office of Emergency Services for consideration.

Beginning February 13, heavy rains combined with saturated ground and high tides to topple trees, wash out County-maintained roads, and wash out creek banks, endangering public infrastructure.

The impacts from the storm included mudslides and levee breaches. In unincorporated Marin County, the most significant impacts began February 14 when stormwater exceeded the capacity of Novato Creek where it passes under Highway 37. The force of the stormwater broke through the embankment and levee on a section of land owned by SMART, located immediately along the south side of Highway 37. The flooding in the surrounding area stems from the damage at that intersection.

The situation requires the coordination of state and local agencies. The floodwater needs to recede out to San Pablo Bay before the full extent of the damage can be accurately determined. The focus of County efforts is to shorten the closure of Highway 37 and assist Caltrans in its efforts to lower waters in the flooded area.

A local declaration of emergency allows the County to exercise all necessary authority to protect lives and property and arrange for the restoration of resources with a minimum of interruption or delay. The declaration would allow the County to apply for state and possibly federal aid to reimburse the County for infrastructure repairs and other related expenses. State law dictates that a governing body that has declared a local state of emergency shall review the need for continuing the local emergency at least once every 30 days.

For more information about the incident, visit the Marin County Public Works Department incident page. It will be updated periodically as the situation develops. 


Matthew Hymel
County Administrator
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite #325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6358
Email: Matthew Hymel
County Administrator website