As Friday's rain brought Adobe Creek within inches of flooding, Palo Alto's creek monitor broke.
The monitor -- which tracks the water levels of San Francisquito, Adobe and Matadero creeks, displaying the results on the city's Web site -- went down at least three times between 11:40 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to Chief Information Officer Glenn Loo and Administrative Services Director Lalo Perez.
Several problems popped up, Loo said.
First, the site had an unusually high number of visitors, although the city doesn't track exactly where the visitors go.
On Jan. 4, about 6,000 visitors opened the city's home page -- up from 1,400 on Dec. 28, Loo said.
Those visitors went to 57,000 pages within the site, up from 4,700 pages the week before. Refreshing a page, such as reloading the creek monitor, counts as a new page, Loo said.
The onslaught of interest created an online traffic jam, which visitors experienced as a slow-loading site or as an error message, Loo said.
In response, the city added one gigabyte of bandwidth to the site, Perez said.
The green hill and blue sky that temporarily replaced the creek monitor is a standard, default Microsoft image and was not activated intentionally by city staff, Loo said.
The monitors transmit data from the creeks to a processing system at the Municipal Service Center on East Bayshore Road. The system began transmitting an error message Friday, Loo said.
City staff drove out and were able to fix it, although they are not sure of its source so it could happen again, Loo and Perez said.
With outside assistance, staff are investigating the problem and trying to solve it, Perez said.
The city set up the monitoring system after the 1998 flood and it has had problems in previous storms, Loo said.
The Web site remains an issue for city leaders, staff members and residents.
On Thursday, Mayor Larry Klein and Councilman Pat Burt said they plan to meet with City Manager Frank Benest to discuss the site.
Burt said he would like to set up a citizen's advisory committee to shift the focus of the site from the city to the public. He also wants to ensure that residents can express interest in volunteering with the city online.
Klein said he doesn't have specific goals.
"I just want the Web site to be clean, modern, and as easy to use as possible so people can readily find what they are looking for," Klein said.
He said he would also be interested in altering the promotional tone of the text.
Perez said city staff are continually working on site improvements.
"We're not defensive about it. ... It's an ongoing thing," Perez said.
Recently, staff removed the photo of a female jogger's shapely midriff on the "Living in Palo Alto" site, replacing it with a realistic photo of (clothed) joggers and a dog walker at the Baylands.
The city increased the size of the text of the site's left side, which provides addresses, phone numbers and other information. Staff members also brightened the green used for some lettering throughout the site, Perez said.
City staff members also placed a link to the creek monitor on the home page, identified with bold type after they heard residents were having trouble locating it, Perez said.