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on Dec 23, 2012
PA should buy a ferry
Perhaps the Creek Monitor should also include Oregon underpass.
This has been a problem for many years, Maybe a billionaire Philanthropist Developer can design a drainage system for the underpass?
The creek monitor is showing that Chaucer bridge is near the top. Lucky, so far that the tide is out. Could get bad, if there is a big downpour this evening, when he tide is back in.
There is also a flood condition in the Charleston Plaza parking lot, outside Peet's. The parking lot was recently resurfaced, and since that time, a huge pond has accummulated in this low point of the parking lot.
Best not to try to enter the Charleston Plaza from the East Meadow entrance closest to Middlefield (where the dry cleaners is located). You can enter from the entrance at the back of the shopping center, and then drive around the back to the front, however.
Billionaire philanthropist developers don't design things, but they can pay for an engineer to do so.
I just tried to drive over to the Chaucer St. bridge, and the water is so deep in the streets that I did not want to drive in it ... specifically the intersection of Hamilton and Chaucer.
Is this normal? I saw emergency lights over by the bridge? Do we have a problem?
Anon, emergency lights by which bridge? Chaucer St? According to creek monitor, Chaucer is almost flooding.
> Anon, emergency lights by which bridge? Chaucer St? According to creek monitor, Chaucer is almost flooding.
Yeah ... Chaucer St. It was a bit scary and reminiscient of .... what was it 98? I lived on Metro Circle at that time and the water moved around town and ended up making a lake of that area ... right up to the threshold of the front door. This is making me nervous.
It's good to be nervous if it keeps you on your toes. The high tide will return soon & not sure how much water will continue to come down from the hills...
How about we go against recent history and fire and deny the bonuses and extended benefits to anyone who had anything to do with flood abatement - I am getting impatient to say the least by the incompetence of this city at getting anything done right.
> not sure how much water will continue to come down from the hills...
Yeah, this is what I am nervous about, the breakneck speed at which the hills have been developed is absorbing less and less water which all rushes down to us. Does anyone have any estimates of how much is the increase?
I just had a phone call from the city, saying that the one of the creeks is at fool capacity. I had hard time understanding it. I tried to repeat the message again, but got cut off. Did any of you got it. Which creek was it. My house is by Greer Park, I am wonder if this are is close to the bridge they were talking about in the phone call.
> I just had a phone call from the city, saying that the one of the creeks is at fool capacity.
Maybe it is the city that is at fool capacity! ;-)
@Worried -- we also got the message. Sounded like "Jackson Creek" but I'm guessing it is San Francisquito. Looking at the level monitor pages, I that is correct, either at W Bayshore, or Chaucer.
They say it should be diminishing after 6pm....but I am a bit concerned as well.
Let's be ready!
Does anyone know how high Chaucer got in 1998?
The city's flood plans neglected to take into the effects of global warming. The storm season is changing and high tides are getting higher. We are not going to get floods every year, but they are going to happen much more than once ever 100 years like the old city flood planning predicted.
Global warming? Such a myth.
> but they are going to happen much more than once ever 100
> years like the old city flood planning predicted.
What utter nonsense!
We get flooding in PA generally when there has been serveral rain storms separated a few days apart, coupled with a high, or extra-high tide.
With, or without, "global warming"--the limited capacity of the Creek during these extraordinary events is the fundamental problem. The creek geometry could be modified, or the creek banks could be raised. But even then, there is only so much water this small creek can carry--meaning that we will see some flooding every once in a while.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Good thing we don't have any glaciers around here, because if we did, they would be melting fast, making the flooding worse.
City has surplus budget. They need to come up with a plan to use extra high power pumps to make up for the water flow taking high tide into account.
Water was everywhere in 1998 on Greer and Oregon way. Hopefully the rain break will help us all to get the water drain out by current means.
Just took a look. 22' on the monitor. 2-3' from top of the bank at Chaucer. Over the bank and some water coming down Palm.
@Global Warming -- at first I though you were joking, but now not so sure. Please, I ask, let's keep politics out of these kinds of situations.
Let's take a vote on global warming. That will settle it. Since I live about Newell, this won't impact me for decades.
Paul Losch from the Parks and Recreation Commission here.
I had to drive a bit today, and it is indeed very hazardous out there. Regarding SF Creek:
Two counties, three cities and Joint Powers Authority (JPA) created to deal with how to mitigate the flooding after what occured in 1998. I have been a part of numerous hearings about this, and here is my summary of the situation.
The creek has to be re-directed where it empties into the SF Bay, and work can then go upstream from there. There are designs to re-engineer the levies and the PA Golf course to accomplish this step. When that program is completed, work will move up the creek to fix or replace bridges and do other work that must take place.
Being a camel with my nose inside the tent, I will say that this whole effort, despite its complexity, has taken entirely too long to get started, let alone get done.
Lots of reasons why such is the case, and the level of urgency that is lacking is exemplified in what goes on this holday weekend.
> Lots of reasons why such is the case
The biggest reason is that there has been no local leadership in any of the affected city, or county-level, governments to assume the responsibility for the project, given the financial liability if it goes wrong and there is flooding/property damage that results from the project's reconfiguration of the creek.
Additionally, there is a lot of expense--which everyone has tried to get the Army Corps of Engineers to pick up. The out-of-control spending of the Federal Government has pretty much killed that hope.
So, whatever passes for local leadership has timidly gotten some work started. However, there doesn't seem to be a fully-blown solution that will be undertaken in the immediate future.
The creek topped its bank in front of The Four Seasons. There's a voluntary evac along the creek in EPA on the west side; I don't know about the east side, in The Gardens.
Just got an alert saying:
"City staff are monitoring the weather and creek levels in the Emergency Operations Center. San Francisquito Creek is overtopping in the vicinity of Highway 101. Based on the current trends, it is likely that there will be overtopping at Chaucer Street as well. Residents are advised to stay in their homes and take precautions to protect their property. Sand bags are available at the Palo Alto Airport and Mitchell Park. Only call 911 if you have a life or death emergency."
Seriously, this rain started in the early morning for less than 12 hours with a total rainfall of 3".. And it's already fallen through the crack!
To be exact the total rainfall is 2.75 in 24hrs. We may be lucky this time..
The water level is now dropping at all the bridges. Chaucer's down from a peak of 22.5'.
I was at the Baylands baseball fields at 7:20 PM. The creek was 3-4 inches from topping the bank there. For many years the city had trained AREAS/RACES ham radio personal to help watch creek levels in many locations and to watch out for flooding. They would send the information into the city and this would allow for faster response. The current City Emergency Coordinator will not use them. He feels that giving credit to any group beside PAN is bad for politics.
> They would send the information into the city and this
> would allow for faster response.
With everyone having a cell phone, or some sort of a mobile communications device--why should anyone be looking for HAM operators to radio information from the Baylands to City Hall?
And as for PAN--you could be very well right about that. PAN is an un-elected bunch, that will eventually get themselves, and a lot of other people, into more trouble than they can get out of.
Huh. Before reading this, I had never heard of PAN.
Barron Creek runs through Palo Alto from the hills to the bay, but there is no creek cam monitor for the many hundreds of people who live near it. Completely unacceptable, and why does the city decide that we don't matter? Why should we have to put on rain gear and walk up to the creek to see if it is near or at the top? We vote and pay taxes for pensions and free medical care, and these staff people decide that we and our homes don't matter. North Palo Alto has several cams, and we have none. Same old bias, and I'm fed up. I think Midtown residents sould get to pay less for taxes, utility bills, and city "services," since we get less.
With everyone having a cell phone, or some sort of a mobile communications device--why should anyone be looking for HAM operators to radio information from the Baylands to City Hall?
When lots of people call in the system get's overloaded trying to process the information. When the information comes in orginized and controlled it works much quicker.
> When lots of people call in the system get's overloaded trying
> to process the information. When the information comes in orginized
> and controlled it works much quicker.
Really? And when has that ever happened here in Palo Alto?
Sorry .. but that is a lame claim.
Maybe the city's current model of ARES/RACES is for use during for only a more serious disruption of communications (i.e. major earthquake or power outage?) Actually, out of curiosity, did the City use HAM radio operators when during the blackout that occured after the Telsa employees had the aviation accident that crashed into East Palo Alto?
Power just went out in EPA, west side.
> Actually, out of curiosity, did the City use HAM radio operators
> when during the blackout that occured after the Telsa employees
> had the aviation accident that crashed into East Palo Alto?
The analog phone system was not affected by the city-wide power loss due to the Tesla employee's fatal crash. Nor was the cell phone system affected.
There would have to be a very major, major, major, catastrophe in order to need HAM operators to provide local communications. It's very unlikely the whole analog phone system would be disrupted. There is the possibility of an EMP strike against the US, but then, theoretically, most electronics would be fried, including all of the unhardened HAM equipment.
@Don At least Barron Creek and Matadero creek have had actual flood control improvements. I'd trade real world improvements for a camera letting me know my house is going to flood.
Useful rule of thumb if you are watching the Palo Alto Creek Monitor online. The peak stage occurs about 3 hours after the rainfall hyetograph measured in Foothill park begins to recede. Today was complicated because the rainfall peaked at around 3pm and a second storm produced a secondary peak at around 5:15pm.
Actually, I was here for the PA Blackout for the Telsa crash and cell phones signals died after about 2-3 hours into the incident. As it turns out the battery backup for the cell towers are only required to last approximately that long.
You're right though about the traditional land-lines - I was still able to make calls using that system. Always a good idea to have a plug-in phone as a backup if a home only has wireless headsets! Unfortunately, I think that a lot of residents have moved to VOIP for their home phones and those are certainly not going to work for very long after a power outage.
I don't get it. Maybe someone can enlighten me. The City of Menlo Park staff was sandbagging the driveways of the upslope properties on Pope Street. Those properties ARE NOT in the FEMA designated floodplain, those homes are not required to carry flood insurance, and they all sit a good distance above street level (probably 18" to 24", min.). Oddly, the homes on the downslope side, in the FEMA designated and mapped floodplain, required to have insurance, and proven to be at greater risk, ala 1998 floods, were not sandbagged (beyond the first block). The city placed sandbags the bottom edge of the driveway openings. If the water were to jump the curb, they would serve no purpose. I can only guess they are placed so to allow water to flow in a straighter path (right onto those downslope homes). I hope the city can come up with a better plan for the next heavy rain incident.
When a large number of people call 911 at about the same time the operators get overloaded. It also takes time to figure out what thepeople are saying in their own words. This is part of what is ment by traind people. They have been trained on what information the city wants and how they want it told to them. Then they practiced it in city sponsered drills. The overloaded 911 operators happins in many cities with more modern 911 systems then Palo Alto. How is Palo Alto different then those cities? This happens while the phone system is working. The advantage is that a ham radio operator can by pass the jamed 911 operators. The current long term goal of Palo Alto is to replace ham radio people who buy most of the equipment with PAN people that the city buys MURS radios and then trains them. The only problem is that we have a few year gap before this new group of radio operators can do what the city wants.
There was a mandatory evac earlier tonight in the Gardens area, I think Verbena & Camellia. Power is back on.
> When a large number of people call 911 at about the same
> time the operators get overloaded.
The question was: "when has that ever happened in Palo Alto"?
It probably hasn't actually happened, has it?
So it sounds like the best thing is to not call 911--because the emergency operators are more interested in talking to their specially trained sources--who can recognize that a house is on fire, but the average Palo Alto resident can not?
Too many people with too much time on their hands!
> cell phone system went out during the plane crash induced outage
Since the outage was only for PA and a little bit of EPA, any cell towers outside the PA grid would not have been effected. If you were on the outer periphery of the city, then you might well have been able to get service from a tower that was still working.
Given how many people are living/working in Palo Alto during the day, the cell phone providers really should have better backup than 2-3 hours. As we all learned, the City is currently fed with only one high-voltage line, and it takes quite a while to replace the fed if it becomes disrupted. This hours of backup is not something that the City can mandate. Given how important cell service is becoming, it would be worthwhile for the Feds to require generator backup for some portion of their cell network in every city.
Cell phone in every pocket, I completely agree that the Feds should increase the battery backups to the cell towers. This was a lesson learned after the 3/11/2011 East Japan Earthquake - where many people are dependent on cell phones. Since the disaster, major cellular companies have decided to extend backups up to 24 (!!!) hours because of the realization of how critical they were in getting help for most people (i.e. those without HAM radios.)
However, I think there is a lack of political will- here in the United States, post Katrina, there was an effort to increase backups to 8 hours but in 2008 the White House apparently killed the plan. Google "White House Rejects Cell-tower Backup Power Plan" for more information.
Some good news on the horizon is that in a few years we should be able to SMS text 9-1-1 services for help, which may help lighten the load on the infrastructure in the future. However, I can truly say I was pretty shocked at not being able to get a cell signal standing next to City Hall at 12pm on the day of the Telsa crash (I think the crash happened at 8am?). It made me really realize that our telecommunications infrastructure has critical weakpoints that people won't really be prepared for until it actually happened. Really wished it didn't take Federal Law to have cell companies increase their disaster preparedness.
Flooding on San Francisquito Creek retaining wall East of 101. Despite the Water district building a short flood wall, it is about 2" short of the High water mark .
Gere you can see the water coming over the top of the wall, Flooding two businesses last night. Palo Alto Upholstery and a body shop were flooded.
I've lived around the Palo Alto area for a while. I was living in the Midtown area during the early seventies when I was introduced to the general landscape's flooding complications. Palo Alto is built on the lower reaches of an alluvial fan complex that issues from the near slopes of that range of mountains and hills that we admire daily. A well-known series of creeks are the usual drainage outlets for moderate rain events; these usually flow to the bay and rain water generally bypasses most of our neighborhoods. However, since neighborhood flood control systems rely on these creeks for their outflow, the flow levels of those creeks are the key to whether those flood controls work as hoped. During periods of abnormal rain that coincide with an abnormally high tides, those creeks are not receptive to added inflows and flood drainage doesn't happen. There isn't much that a municipality can change to improve that issue--that is politically and fiscally manageable. These alluvial fans have been overbuilt for generations. Too many drastic changes would be needed to make partial improvements and no foolproof improvements would be likely. Around the globe, many human settlements are situated on flood plains and alluvial fans. The tradeoffs are well-known and accepted, implicitly and explicitly. California has state and county laws and regulations that provide for disclosure of natural hazard implications for private properties when they are sold and purchased. Caveat Emptor.
What would happen if we just removed the Chaucer and Newell bridges?
You can't remove the Chaucer and Newell bridges until you fix the flooding issues downstream (Palo Alto Baylands and East Palo Alto areas). If you increase the flow upstream to avoid upstream flooding, then you are liable for causing the flooding damage downstream.
Plans are slowly working their way through the process to fix the downstream problems, then fix the Newell bridge. Planning Commission has Newell Bridge on upcoming agenda. Chaucer would be next. City missed the opportunity to require Stanford to build water retention ponds to solve the problem upstream first.
This chart shows last night's flow relative to bridge capacity. It also allows looking at the size of this storm (about a 12-year storm). The data came from USGS and City of Palo Alto.
The chart supports a conclusion that Newell is not a priority relative to other bridges like Bayshore or Chaucer-Pope. For the improvement of Newell to be significant would require that Middlefield also be improved - and this is not anticipated.
My recent advocacy has been to ask for laser focus on Chaucer-Pope, and not fall to a distraction that is starting around Newell. The improvement of Bayshore seems set for 2015.
In time Newell, University and Middlefield bridges should be improved, but I view this as a second priority.
The JPA has seems recently to be making more succinct representations of a schedule that would bring demonstrable flood risk reduction before winter storms of 2016 - still a ways off.
Remember, in 1998, all the creeks here flooded over their banks, flooding hundreds of homes with mud and water. The city promised us then that they would take measures to prevent this ever happening again.
Who is the bigger fool: the city official who made a promise that can't possibly be kept, or the resident who believed it?
They have taken measures.
Now if citizens would have let them concrete the creek, it would flow better, but this is the price we pay for not doing it.
Mr. Anonymous......in 1998.....not all the creeks flooded the banks......Matadero Creek did not go over its bank......the flood water came from the sewers.......San Francisquito Creek flooded and the excess water from that surfaced in the Midtown area. It was so bad that manhole covers came off. Get your facts correct. That's the problem with most of these posts......everyone has their opinion but few facts. While most of the creeks in Palo Alto have been cemented, Matadero from Greer to West Bayshore has not........the City of Palo Alto needs to finish the cementing of Matadero Creek (what? a frog may be displaced?) and maybe then folks in the "flood" area might be able to pay less......even though most homes in Palo Alto listed in flood zones will never, ever be flooded. Trust me....I've lived here all my life and seen the worst flooding in town......only a very few have suffered flood damage, while all the other folks who spend thousands each year on flood insurance are simply wasting their money.....thanks to the FEMA requirements.
In the interest of getting the facts straight, who is responsible for the maintenance of Matadero Creek? Is it the City of Palo Alto or the Santa Clara Valley Water District? My understanding is that it is SVCWD, and that Palo Alto can't do anything to the creeks. San Francisquito is different because it is on the border of two counties, so it has a Joint Powers Authority.
I was surprised to hear that the "excess water" from San Francisquito ended up in Midtown in 1998. I don't recall any water in the Midtown shopping area. I certainly do recall 2 feet of water inside our house (more in the lower garage) and wading in water up to my waist that night to get into a row boat and be taken out by a neighbor. We lived on Sierra Court which we were told was the lowest spot in Palo Alto, made into a worse sink by being partially encircled with raised berms for 101 and Oregon Expressway ramps. We had the deepest water of all, even the fire engine couldn't get in to rescue us. It parked at Greer and Oregon and we had to get to it on our own. They didn't even have those foil blankets or anything and we were soaked nearly head to toe in filthy water and freezing. I just heard about this latest incident from our ex neighbors who still live there. When we bought a house here our number one priority was that it not be in a flood zone. When I'd bought the house on Sierra Court in 1973 it was before FEMA and there was no law requiring that the buyer be told about prevous floods. While sitting in the Red Cross shelter at Cubberley I learned for the first time that Sierra Court had been flooded in the 50s. I get perturbed at people who criticize those for moving to a known flood zone because those of us who bought before there were regulations requiring it, were NOT told about any prior flooding of the area when we bought.
California EMA has an online tool called "MyHazards" which helps identifies risks to your home location. It can be viewed here:
I love those Palo Altans... It's always the City doesn't solve all my problems all the time and, oh by the way, cut City staff and cut their pay and pensions and recall the Council. Bunch of whiners.
"I love those Palo Altans.."
The City of Menlo Park has been a long-time member of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. Further, a member of Menlo Park's staff -- Cynthia D'Agosta -- is the long-serving Executive Director of the Authority. All cities in such Authority -- including Menlo Park -- have played a material role in the process to date.
Attempting to cast the concerns of many in Palo Alto as whining, you apparently lack appreciable knowledge of the Authority, its management structure, and its results -- or, more importantly, the lack thereof -- to date.
It's high time for the Authority to take action here; Saturday was a telling reminder of the potential damages from further inaction.
'Saturday' should read 'Sunday'.
As the City of Palo Alto's Senior Engineer working on storm drainage infrastructure and issues, I noticed Don's comment about the lack of a Barron Creek level sensor or camera and wanted to provide the following information.
The City of Palo Alto has creek level sensors at several locations throughout the City. The sensors were initially installed after the February 1998 flood event as a means for staff to remotely monitor creek levels and trends during storm events. Eventually, the information was made available to the public through the City's web site. We know and understand that the creek level information is very useful to members of the public, and we continue to strive to make the web site more understandable and user-friendly. The locations of the level sensors were selected based upon the level of flood risk and the availability of communications infrastructure. Most of the sensors are located along San Francisquito Creek because it has a substantially higher likelihood of flooding than the other creeks in the City. The other three major creeks traversing Palo Alto Matadero, Barron, and Adobe have been substantially improved and channelized by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (District). A series of District flood control projects implemented in late 1980s/early 1990s has increased the capacity of these three creeks to enable them to convey the 1% (100-year) flood without overtopping. There have been no incidents of overtopping on these creeks since the flood control improvements were completed, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has revised the Flood Insurance Rate Maps to eliminate the floodplains for these creeks. This is not to say that these creeks will never overtop in the future (there can be storms larger than the 1% event), but they have been improved to provide the universally-accepted standard level of protection. Conversely, San Francisquito Creek has less than 25-year flow capacity and has a much higher likelihood of debris blockages and bank collapses due to its natural state. The City's single web cam was installed at San Francisquito Creek/West Bayshore Road because the creek at this bridge has the lowest flow capacity of any point throughout the City. Barron Creek has the smallest watershed area of the City's four creeks (3 square miles vs. 45 square miles for San Francisquito Creek) and has the lowest flood risk. The District's Barron Creek flood control improvements include a large underground culvert that limits flows into Barron Creek by diverting high flows into Matadero Creek. The level sensors installed at Matadero and Adobe Creeks were placed adjacent to City-owned storm water pump stations where there is connectivity to the City's communications network. There are no similar facilities along Barron Creek.
The City may expand its network of creek level sensors and web cameras in the future. Consideration will be given at that time to the addition of a sensor along Barron Creek. In the meantime, I hope that this information provides a better understanding of the rationale behind the existing creek monitoring network.
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