The City of Palo Alto Utilities department has organized a 24-hour control center and stand-by crews to help residents weather the series of storms in the event of power outages, the department has announced. Even if outages occur on nights or weekends, the department is prepared to respond quickly, Communications Manager Debra Katz said.
The series of "pineapple express" storms heading across the Pacific Ocean are expected to dump considerable amounts of rain in the coming days, according to weather reports.
"Trucks, equipment and materials have been stocked and checked. In the event of a larger scale emergency, every utilities staff person knows we are 'on call,' and may need to come in to help out. We all hope that scenario never develops, but if it does, we're ready," Katz said.
The department also has several online sites to help residents:
Up-to-date information if there is a power outage, water or gas main break is available at www.cityofpaloalto.org/outageinfo.
Safety tips are available at www.cityofpaloalto.org/safeutility.
Additional links include:
Power outages: www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/32147. A free "important contact info" magnet, which has emergency numbers, key numbers for services and website links, is available upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (include name and mailing address) or by calling 650-329-2479.
Winter storm-prep tips: www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/25598.
The city homepage at www.cityofpaloalto.org has a link to general emergency preparation, creek level monitoring, and Palo Alto Neighborhood (PAN) emergency-preparation pages.
Besides the inevitable squirrel or raccoon-chewed power line, there are some human-caused contributing factors to outages, Katz said.
The city also has a Right Tree Right Place program at www.cityofpaloalto.org/rtrp, which is operated year-round to provide incentives to relocate trees away from power lines. Tree branches falling onto or growing through power lines are a significant source of outages, Katz said.
"While we have a regular process for trimming trees, the best solution is not to have tall tree species planted under power lines to begin with," she noted.
Mylar balloons are also a human-caused source of outages.
"When a Mylar balloon meets a power line, you can kiss your electric service goodbye," Katz said. It is important for people to use the weights that come with these balloons, tie them securely to strollers or only use them indoors, she said.
But the biggest problem with the coming storms is not outages, but flooding, Katz warned.
"The folks in our Public Works department are monitoring the creeks very carefully. The worst of this series of storms is expected to hit Sunday, and that's when the concerns regarding flooding will be greatest.
"On the bright side, this is the first storm of the season and so the ground is not saturated and can absorb a lot of water before it gets into the creeks. Also, creeks can appear to be rising because the tide is coming in, but then they recede with the tide, so our folks take all the factors into account when deciding if things are getting 'critical' or not," she said.
The city has posted information on where to get sandbags and other critical storm-related information at www.cityofpaloalto.org/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=2105&TargetID=268.
The city online creek-monitor also includes real-time video of San Francisquito Creek and updates on other local waterways and can be viewed at www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/pwd/creek_monitor/default.asp.