A strong storm due to arrive in the Midpeninsula on Wednesday, Jan. 4, will rival the impact of Saturday's storm, with the highest rainfall occurring Wednesday afternoon through early Thursday morning, the Palo Alto police department warned Tuesday.
A high-wind watch also will be in effect for the same period.
Residents who were affected by flooding on Saturday should be extra alert for this week's rains, police said.
Palo Alto city staff are continuing to monitor water levels in the creeks, city officials stated.
A series of storms are expected to move over the Bay Area this week, and last for several days.
The Menlo Park Fire District said it is prepared for the next stage of the storm. According to Fire Marshal Jon Johnston, the major difference between the storm on Dec. 31 and the one expected Wednesday is higher wind speeds, which threaten trees and power lines. Atherton, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto are opening their Emergency Operations Centers and the fire district is again boosting its staffing as it did on New Year’s Eve. The district has water rescue capabilities and boats that can be used as needed.
The Portola Valley School District, which already had a scheduled early dismissal, canceled after-school activities and asked staff to plan to leave by 2 p.m. Wednesday. District officials announced Wednesday morning that school would be canceled Thursday due to anticipated storm impacts. The districts two schools will not offer remote learning on Thursday, said Superintendent Roberta Zarea in a statement. School is expected to be able to resume on Friday, she said.
"Decisions like this are never easy to make but we are always going to put student and staff safety first," Zarea said.
The Woodside Elementary School District plans to cancel classes on Thursday as well. The district also canceled after-school activities on Wednesday.
Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton shut down campus Wednesday as a precaution.
Menlo School in Atherton moved to remote learning Wednesday and planned to do the same on Thursday, according to its Facebook page.
Widespread flooding in Woodside
Woodside saw widespread flooding, and culverts and bridges became blocked with vegetation and other debris at numerous locations, including roadways, during Saturday's storm, said Town Manager Kevin Bryant reported on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The town Public Works Department was responding to storm related issues for all of Saturday, he said.
"From Sunday through today, the town crew and additional crews we have been able to hire have been working to clear debris from roadways as well as bridges and culverts in preparation for the next storm," he said in an email.
The town has sand and bags available, but demand is very high. Officials are limiting residents to picking up 15 bags per trip to try to ensure that as many people as possible can get sandbags.
Atherton's drainage system stretched to its limits
Atherton’s drainage system was at capacity during the storm, said Town Manager George Rodericks on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The Atherton Channel reached nearly 7 feet, but it did not overflow, he said.
“There were capacity issues at many of the town’s drainage inlets and those systems inundated the surrounding inlets,” he said. “There were numerous properties in town, mostly along the Atherton Channel that experienced localized flooding on their property.
There were three power outages, each one affected 49 or fewer homes, due to downed trees, which have all been remedied by PG&E, Rodericks said.
Sandbags were distributed at Holbrook-Palmer Park but, as with other jurisdictions in the county, there were not enough and the town ran out, he said.
The town anticipates the city's Office of Emergency Services will deliver more bags on Tuesday. The town plans to release a news alert when they are available. There is a limit of five sandbags per home.
Staff is currently inspecting all town drainage systems to ensure that inlets are cleared of debris in anticipation of this week’s upcoming storm.
The town’s Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT) will be activated to serve as a resource to assist with staging of local emergency response trailers, clearing of any street/surface drainage areas, windshield surveys, and monitoring the sandbag station, Rodericks said.
West Menlo Park
The Menlo Park side of Woodland Avenue was without flooding near the Pope-Chaucer Bridge, but residents said the creek flooded streets in spots just upstream of the bridge.
Hedeff Essaid said the water ran down Pope Street and drained down to Laurel Avenue. The water had retreated by 11:30 a.m. and the level had receded by about a foot. Still, an enormous debris field of logs, branches, trash and even a kitchen sink had gotten jammed up at the bridge.
Essaid, a hydrologist, was philosophical: "We have dry years and we have wet years. We have to be prepared for both," she said.
A crowd had gathered along Woodland Avenue near the Pope-Chaucer Bridge to observe what had become a taped-off scene by the Menlo Park Police Department. Inside the tape, an excavator plucked enormous logs blocking the creek while police officers supervised and onlookers dressed in rain gear cheered. The mood had lifted from hours earlier, when some residents living along the creek had feared their homes could flood.
"This is the highest I've ever seen it," said resident Jim Geimer.
Jenny Jones said that a neighbor had woken her up that morning, telling her that the creek had flooded onto the street and was coming toward the curb. She was directed to go get sandbags, which she had to fill herself, to place in her driveway.
Others, some of whom have rebuilt their homes since the last time the area flooded in 1998, said they'd been required to comply with flood protection regulations for their new homes and weren't concerned about the flood risks.
Farther down the creek on Woodland Avenue, resident Ali Hooshmand stood behind a fortified wall of wood and sandbags. Earlier that morning, he said his neighbors had alerted him about the flooding and helped him set up a "bucket brigade" to scoop water out of his flooded driveway. Someone had even set up a pump in the adjacent gutter puddle to redirect the rainfall away from the driveway.
While the flood anxiety seemed to have diminished on the Menlo Park side of the San Francisquito Creek that Saturday, Sgt. Aaron Dixon of the Menlo Park Police Department wasn't ready to call the situation under control.
What really makes an impact on the creek's water levels, he said, is the amount of rain that's falling in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains farther upstream. And that could still change.
"I'm glad they're clearing out the grates," he added.
Flooding, damaged creek monitors in Palo Alto
In Palo Alto, city crews are working to prepare for the next storm, according to an announcement issued Monday. Foothills Nature Preserve will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 5, because of the expected inclement weather, the city said.
The city also provided an update on two of its creek sensors that were damaged in the storm: The sensor at Chaucer Street was damaged by moving debris, while the network that serves the Waverley Street sensor was damaged. Both sensors were fixed as of Monday night prior to the arrival of the next large storm, the city stated.
The city's Creek Monitor webpage provides real-time information and video of local creeks' water levels.
Several streets and intersections along the creek were closed on Dec. 31 due to flooding. El Camino Real remained flooded and closed in both directions under University Avenue on Monday afternoon.
Read our coverage of the Dec. 31 flooding from the storm.
Storm expected to arrive mid-week
A moisture-heavy Pineapple Express storm is on the way and expected to soak the Bay Area mid-week, National Weather Service forecasters said Monday.
Mop-up efforts to bail out flooded basements and clear mudslides from roadways will be paused by the latest atmospheric river, set to arrive late Tuesday into early Wednesday.
Soils already saturated by last weekend's downpours will only intensify the new storm's impacts, forecasters said.
The latest system could bring a repeat of recent flooding and the National Weather Service is urging residents prepare for rising creeks, downed trees, mudslides and power outages.
Most areas will see light rain on Monday through the afternoon and evening, setting the stage for the big storm, according to the National Weather Service.
Downpours will be heaviest late Wednesday into early Thursday, and will be accompanied by strong winds. Scattered showers are expected to linger Thursday into early Friday.
San Francisco, along with the East Bay and South Bay areas, are forecast for 1.5 to 3 inches.
Preparing for the next storm
Sand and bags are available at the following locations; bring your own shovel:
* Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave., Atherton (limit 10)
* Burgess Park parking lot at Alma Street and Burgess Drive, Menlo Park
* Menlo Park Fire Station No. 77 at 1467 Chilco St., Menlo Park
* EPA Corp Yard, 150 Tara Road, East Palo Alto.
* Woodside Town Hall, 2955 Woodside Road, Woodside (limit 15)
At Portola Valley Town Center, a self-service sandbag station is located on the southern driveway across from the basketball courts, with bags, shovels and funnels provided. On Jan. 3, residents packed up around 2000 sandbags using two dump truck loads of sand, the town reported. Two more dump trucks' worth of sand is set to arrive Wednesday, Jan. 4, after 10 a.m. and town staff will be metering out the bags to residents.
Residents can report depleted supplies on the town’s PV Connect app or call the Public Works Department at 650-851-1700 x 500 or email TownCenter@portolavalley.net.
The sandbag station in Menlo Park, which ran out during the New Year's Eve storm, was fully stocked as of 8 a.m. on Jan. 3.
San Mateo County's health officer, Dr. Scott Morrow, warned residents that floodwater poses health and safety risks for those returning to flooded areas. "Floodwater can contain all kinds of dangerous materials, and it is obviously best to avoid any contact with the water," he said.
Read flood water safety tips from the county here.
To sign up for emergency alerts in any of San Mateo County's cities and towns, go to smcgov.org/ceo/smc-alert.
Information about the storm from the city of Menlo Park, plus phone numbers for reporting damage and preparedness tips, are online here.