Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 22, 2010

Powerful storms sweep through Palo Alto

No serious damage reported despite heavy downpour, tornado warning

by Palo Alto Weekly staff

A series of tumultuous storms punctuated by heavy rainfall and high winds rolled into Palo Alto Saturday night and is expected to continue next week, with a brief respite over the weekend.

The peak of this week's storms hit Wednesday afternoon with steady downpour, lightning, thunder and occasional cloudbursts. Creek flows surged and city officials and residents were on high alert for flooding. The National Weather Service even issued a rare tornado warning Wednesday, which was in effect until 2:30 p.m.

Palo Alto has so far escaped serious damage from the storms. There were reports of flooding in the Embarcadero Road area near Palo Alto High School at around noon Wednesday, and of power outages. The storms felled a pair of Palo Alto trees, slowed local traffic and disrupted power to more than 1,000 city residents.

But most residents and drivers adjusted to the weather quickly, Communication Manager Linda Clerkson said.

"Motorists should drive with caution, slow down, drive with lights on and windshield wipers going," Clerkson said, noting that most have been driving slowly and safely.

Roughly 1,200 neighborhood customers lost power in the St. Francis neighborhood, though 900 had it restored by 10 a.m. Wednesday, Clerkson reported. The outage also shut off a traffic signal at East Bayshore Road and Corporation Way.

A smaller power outage hit about 200 Palo Alto city electric-utility customers along Park Boulevard near California Avenue late Tuesday afternoon, but power was restored to all by about 7 p.m. A lightning strike caused a small power outage high up Page Mill Road, impacting 15 to 20 homes for several hours.

The storm had also knocked down two trees, one of which caused a power outage that temporarily affected the creek monitor near San Francisquito Creek. Trails between the Baylands Nature Center and San Francisquito Creek will be closed to the public during high tide, the city announced. Seasonal trails at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve are also closed until next week.

In Menlo Park, the driver of a silver Toyota was injured Monday morning when the top of a redwood tree came crashing through his windshield as he was driving on Santa Cruz Avenue near Hillview Middle School. Police identified the driver as Mohammed Nizam of Hayward.

The car, emblazoned with the Discovery Cab Co. logo on its doors, crashed through the wooden fence in front of David Eline's home on Santa Cruz Avenue, and then through a chain-link fence into his neighbor's front yard. It came to rest only a couple of yards away from the car parked in the home's driveway.

Nizam was taken to Stanford Hospital, according to Officer Tony Mendoza of the Menlo Park Police Department. He was treated at the hospital and discharged.

"I heard the crash of the tree limb literally going through the car, and then I heard the crash of the car going through the fence," Eline said.

Flooding, fallen trees and minor mudslides were also reported throughout San Mateo County on Wednesday.

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