News

Creek monitors fail during recent storm

City investigating source of problems, making other site improvements

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.

VIDEO: Flooding on East Meadow Circle

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by The-Proof-Is-In-The-Pudding
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:13 am

> 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.

If one doesn't know what the problem actually is, how does one really "fix" something?

> He said he would also be interested in altering
> the promotional tone of the text.

That would be a good idea.

> City staff drove out

An eight-minute drive from downtown to the MSC, maybe less due to the lack of traffic during the storm.

> The city increased the size of the text of the site's left side,
> which provides addresses, phone numbers and other information.

The font size in the left column which starts with the city's longitude and latitude is still too small. It's large enough to be readable, but only barely.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lives-next-to-adobe-creek
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:39 am

The other thing which would be really helpful when a creek is near overflowing is telling people *where* the creek is near overflowing. While it might have been close to overflowing somewhere along its length, near where I live, the concrete ditch that Adobe Creek runs through was only about halfway to full.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 10, 2008 at 12:56 pm

>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.

Uh, guys -- that's because people can't FIND anything on the site and were despearately hunting hither and yon for the creek monitor. (!!)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:51 pm

So was the emergency phone/text/email system put into operation for contacting those who lived in the vacinity of the creek? I thought that the idea was for the city to tell us of the dangers not for us to monitor what was going on through a hard to find website which may or may not be working.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Lets see. The City screwed up. So the Citizens get screwed over. They fix the problem with a monitoring system that does not work? And for the most part is worthless.Why fix the problem when you just blow the citizens off with some BS story.. Always works in Palo Alto.

I think you know when your TV is floating down the street that the creek has ran over.. Think?
Or maybe keep an eye on the City Managers house. When people who look like Firefighters are at his house wearing fake noses and glasses getting overtime pay,while the rest of the Citizens are helpless.It has ran over its banks
That would be the Sandbags Scandel Monitor....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peg H.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Doesn't the JPA play a role in making this right? The San Francisquito Creek needs an all-in-one agency that can take care of these matters.

For too long, we've heard only excuses coming from the JPA. They say will have to wait thirty years until real solutions can be implemented. It will be ready in 2038 until then it doesn't matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 12, 2008 at 9:31 pm

I agree with the person living by Adobe Creek. *Where* did it almost overflow???


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