SF Creek hits 50% 'alert' mark this morning

Heavy, short storm drops 1.89 inches on Palo Alto foothills

The volatile San Francisquito Creek climbed above the 50 percent "alert" level shortly before 4 a.m. today, but "didn't get close" to the emergency-activation 70 percent, Police/Fire Chief Dennis Burns reported.

He said a rainfall reading at Foothills Park showed a total for this heavy but brief storm of 1.87 inches for the last 24 hours.

Today's forecast of light showers clearing by tonight means any flood danger is past, Burns noted. He said residents may check creek depths by going to the city's website,, and checking the creek monitor and creek-cam section.

The creek is prone to rise rapidly during heavy rains because it is fed by a line of short, steep canyons above Woodside and Portola Valley. Once the ground is saturated, the runoff builds rapidly in the lower stretches.

Cities along the creek and Santa Clara and San Mateo counties -- which the creek divides -- are working as a Joint Powers Authority to devise and implement improvements to reduce the potential for flooding. But high costs and a slow pace of federal funding have slowed progress over the years.


-- Palo Alto Online staff

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Like this comment
Posted by andreas
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 29, 2010 at 8:40 am

Palo Alto Online,

Why don't you include the link to the Creek Monitor in this story?

At Palo Alto's Creek Monitor, anyone can follow the creek water levels.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2010 at 10:57 am

Andrea, you and everyone else who uses a computer are supposed to know where to find the link. Go to <> then down along the right side is the link to CREEK MONITOR.

Like this comment
Posted by Why?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

Kate, why should Andreas (not Andrea as you wrote) and all the rest of us know where to find the creek monitor?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

It's high time the Chaucer Street Bridge was removed altogether, it acts like a dam. Also the creek should be widened down by the golf course.

As for providing a flood plain up-stream at web ranch, I think that's overkill and far too expensive.

These ideas should be taken one at a time, and start by removing the dam called the Chaucer Street Bridge.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It is beyond belief that all these years after the last flood in Palo Alto resulting from the Chaucer Bridge, we are still resigned to nervously checking the creek monitor hourly during each storm, and rearranging sand bags around our homes in case the worst occurs.

The bridge was a mistake, and became an enabler of flooding instead of just a bridge. It needs to come down and be replaced by a bridge that does not act as a dam. Local authorities have wasted millions on studies and salaries for the joint Authority without a tiny bit of progress. Do something that actually reduces the likelihood of flooding-not increase bureaucratic waste.

Like this comment
Posted by Tidal flood
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I understand there are ongoing efforts to address the San Francisquito Creek flooding, starting at the bay and working inland.

But the efforts to address tidal flooding, which affects well over 2000 houses in Palo Alto, appear to be stalled. The tidal flood zone used to be labelled AE8 (meaning anything under 8 feet above mean high sea level is considered in the flood zone), but is now labelled AE10.5. I guess that means there is 2.5 feet more of a problem now.

With global warming causing sea level rise through multiple mechanisms (thermal expansion plus melting of land-based Greenland and Antarctic glaciers), tidal flooding is just a matter of time.

Fortunately, raising the levees and bring them up to FEMA standards will resolve the problem. Since it takes perhaps a decade or more to upgrade the levees (most of that is for study, design, and identifying funds), the sooner we start the more likely we'll address the problem before flooding occurs. Aren't we better off preventing problems?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Mike says: "It needs to come down and be replaced by a bridge that does not act as a dam." You are correct, however, replacing the Chaucer Street Bridge is the big hang-up, it's just too expensive. How about simply removing it. Bicyclists and pedestrians could go around and use other streets and bridges to cross San Francisquito Creek.

Like this comment
Posted by Gnarly Ford
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

The Chaucer St bridge is primarily an automobile bridge. It is not bike and pedestrian only.

So it's the motorists who can easily drive to other bridges to cross the creek.

I recommend Newell St Bridge. Regular driving across that bridge in most post-Model-T-era vehicles builds character.

Like this comment
Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm

As someone who had 2 feet of water in her house in 1998, and went out by boat in the middle of the night, it is really dismaying to see that nothing much as changed since then. What a relief to now live where we don't have the stress, and lingering PTSD, of watching the creek monitor every time there is heavy rain. My feelings go out to those still in that predicament, especially our former neighbors who suffered most in the flood of 1998. We know first-hand how life-altering and awful it is to live through such an ordeal. Nothing is ever the same. Our whole life is divided into "before the flood" and "after the flood". Good Luck, Palo Alto!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Removing the Chaucer Street Bridge is going to take as long as building the eastern span of the Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Make that around 25 years!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by pw
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Remove or put in by-pass on GD bridge (dam). in '98 our esteemed fire chief kissed me off in 2 sentences, pw bigger things to do than ten feet of water and 5 cars totalled.

Like this comment
Posted by pw
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Disgusting money has been spent on studies and salaries, for some a whole career. pw

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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