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Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 17, 2013

News Digest

Two men attempt robbery in downtown Palo Alto

Two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, attempted to rob three women in downtown Palo Alto on the 700 block of Emerson Street Wednesday night at about 10 p.m.

The three women were walking together on the street when the men stepped out of the alcove of a business downtown, pointed a small black handgun at them, and demanded the women hand over their property. The women scattered, each running in separate directions to nearby businesses to call police. The robbers did not pursue them, police said.

The victims described the first suspect as a Hispanic male in his 20s, between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 6 inches tall with a medium build, wearing dark clothing with a cloth covering his face. The second man was described only as a tall man with a blue bandana covering his face.

Police are beefing up patrols in the downtown area, and detectives are investigating the event and the possibility that it might be related to a strong-arm robbery that occurred on Hamilton Avenue on May 13.

In that incident, a woman who was walking westbound on the 200 block of Hamilton Avenue at about 10:45 p.m. and was crossing an alleyway called Lane 12, between Ramona and Emerson streets, when a man grabbed her by the hair and pulled her backwards into the alley, according to the police. As he held her hair, the man demanded money, police said. After the victim, who is in her 20s, gave him cash from her purse, the man ran away north through the alley, police said.

Because the victim didn't see the suspect, she described him only as taller than 5 feet 5 inches tall. He also reportedly had a deep, raspy voice with no accent. She reported the robbery the following morning, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incidents to call the Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Baby harbor seal rescued from Baylands dies

A baby harbor seal rescued in the Palo Alto Baylands in April has died.

Floodgate Dolly, a 5-week-old pup rescued by Palo Alto Animal Services, died April 29 of an apparent lung infection, according to a preliminary report by the Marine Mammal Center.

He became a pinniped celebrity of sorts after being caught against the Mayfield Slough flood gate at high tide on April 9. He was the first harbor seal rescued in Palo Alto that has been cared for by the center since 1991, according to Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the center.

A passer-by heard the 14-pound pup's cries as the seal bobbed up and down near the concrete wall, its head periodically disappearing under the water.

"We had a concern about the way the baby was struggling," Palo Alto Animal Services Officer William Warrior said at the time. "We were worried about him possibly drowning."

Climbing down the flood gate, Warrior and another officer lifted the black-and-silver pup out of the bay water using a net and brought the seal to the Palo Alto office of Peninsula Humane Society's Wildlife Rescue Center. The pup was later transferred to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

He was undernourished and dehydrated, and he weighed only half the normal weight for a pup his age, Oswald said after the seal arrived. The seal was tube-fed a "fish smoothie" and other nutrients and medicines.

PG&E begins new project on Alma Street

Pacific Gas and Electric Company began replacing major valves on Alma Street between Colorado Avenue and the Oregon Expressway/Page Mill Road overpass on Wednesday.

The work will require excavation on driveways and sidewalks in that area as well as periodic lane closures over the coming months, Utilities Communications Manager Debra Katz said.

"Beleaguered northbound Alma commuters, who have in the past year dealt with traffic congestion and delays due to the PG&E project on Charleston Road, the City water main replacement along Alma and the Alma street repaving, will now have an additional couple of months of hassle to contend with," Katz said.

But the "good news," she added, is that PG&E workers will not be excavating in the newly paved street.

Once the work is completed, the city will have a safer gas line that can accommodate new PG&E inspection technology. Starting in 2014, inspection devices dubbed "Smart Pigs" can be run through the pipes on Alma Street to make sure everything is running smoothly. These devices can be equipped with robotic cameras and sensors to check pipe thickness and for any flaws or corrosion. The line will also go through hydrostatic testing, exerting water pressure on the pipes to reveal any potential weakness.

— Elena Kadvany

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