Palo Alto roads, underpasses flooding; roads closing

Police ask residents and workers to avoid driving between 2 and 8 p.m. today, to ease traffic problems

With the brunt of this week's storm hitting Thursday morning, bringing more than an inch of rain to the Palo Alto Foothills, a flooded Oregon Expressway underpass (at Alma Street) was closed from El Camino Real to Bryant Street for more than an hour, and other roadways flooded throughout the city.

Cars from Alma Street and other onramps to Oregon were diverted by Palo Alto police. As a result, traffic snarled in all directions at the next intersection with Alma Street, at Churchill Avenue, mid-morning.

Police also closed a portion of West Bayshore Road near Loma Verde and a portion of Middlefield Road between Kellogg Avenue and Embarcadero Road due to standing water.

Pooling roadways also included Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue; Middlefield at Charleston Shopping Center and Cubberley Community Center; Lincoln and Bryant streets; Churchill Avenue by Palo Alto High School; and Embarcadero between Middlefield and Alma, according to the police dispatch.

No residential power outages had been reported as of mid-day, though a few traffic lights went out temporarily.

Public Works crews worked to clear storm drains of leaves and other debris. Water along some flooded roads, including the University underpass at Alma, was drained quickly.

The City of Palo Alto is periodically updating a map of road hazards, closures, flooding and other incidents here.

Total rainfall for the Bay Area is projected to range from 1 to 4 inches in urban areas with winds at 20 to 40 mph and gusts up to 40 to 60 mph, the storm is predicted to be one of the strongest to strike the area since October 2009.

Palo Alto's creeks -- San Francisquito, Matadero and Adobe -- showed increase water volume, but as of mid-day, only Matadero's water level had exceeded even half of its height. The water in San Francisquito Creek at Chaucer Street bridge was inching up due to run off from the foothills; it stood at 8.5 feet as of 1 p.m. -- the top of the bridge is at 24 feet, with the top of the tunnel arch standing at 16 feet.

The City of Palo Alto has live monitors on the city's creeks (San Francisquito, Matadero and Adobe), which can be viewed at the city's website.

The Palo Alto Police Department issued a commute advisory mid-day, asking that residents and workers not drive unless necessary between 2 and 8 p.m., to ease traffic conditions.

Ronnie Farrell, a science teacher at Palo Alto High School, used his grace period Wednesday to pick up sandbags, mostly to protect his garage from flooding. He lived in the same Community Center neighborhood house in 1998.

"The last time there was a lot of rain (in 1998) it really caused a lot of damage," he said. "I'm just making sure that ... the garage is protected. I'm just trying to stay dry."

Farrell said Thursday morning that Paly is "not quite flooding, but plenty of areas of the school are inaccessible."

He reported early Thursday evening that his garage was still dry.

Shae Hill also stopped by a sandbag station by Rinconada Park with her two young daughters Wednesday afternoon to stuff bags with sand. Hill lives on a ground-floor apartment downtown and said she wanted to take all precautions to hopefully avoid flooding today.

Resident Charlie Junkerman, who lives on Chaucer Street between Hamilton and University, said he filled 75 sandbags on Wednesday in preparation. He too experienced significant damage in 1998, losing a car, furnace and washer and dryer machines.

"That was pretty traumatic," he said Thursday midday, at which point there was no flooding in his neighborhood and he was preparing to leave the house for the first time that day.

Junkerman said he's also been watching the city's creek monitors throughout the day.

Palo Alto police agent Marianna Villaescusa said Thursday that its own building was impacted by flooding.

"We no longer have a briefing room right now," she said. City operations have been consolidated in the Emergency Operations Center, with multiple police officers also out in the city working with other crews on road closures.

Palo Alto schools remained open Thursday. Farrell said an email had been sent out Wednesday advising teachers to be understanding that students might be late.

San Francisco International Airport is seeing numerous flight cancellations and delays today due to the storm. Airport duty manager Nancie Parker said 212 flights have been canceled today. Ninety-nine of the cancellations are departures and 113 are arrivals.

Parker said the airport will also likely see long flight delays today. She said delays could reach more than three hours.

Power was knocked out to 93,000 residents and businesses in San Francisco this morning. PG&E was still working on restoring power to those

customers and thousands of others without power throughout the Bay Area mid-day. At least 37,000 customers lost power at some point since the storm hit the region overnight, PG&E spokesman Nick Stimmel said.

The police department is updating its Twitter and Facebook pages with any major closures and information.

The Palo Alto Utilities Department is encouraging residents to report outages by calling 650-329-6914 or visiting

To view Palo Alto Utilities power outage information, click here.

This story will be continue to be updated throughout the day.

To see photos and videos of the storm, visit the Weekly's Storify here.

Related content:

Palo Altans nervously watch San Francisquito Creek

East Palo Alto: flood-threat alert


7 people like this
Posted by Soggy Bottom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

City website is not updating. Also only one webcams how's data fm Dec? 2, not today. No webcams for Adobe or other creaks within Palo alto city limits.

And we are the high tech capital? Not so much?

3 people like this
Posted by Middlefield River
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Thanks to Public Works for fixing Lake Middlefield near the Community Center. Whatever they did there helped to stop the deep and rapidly flowing Middlefield River that was so deep and broad it overflowed onto the sidewalks at Lowell.

The slide show doesn't seem to be working so more textual advisories would be help.

2 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

The Police twitter account has up to date info, you don't need a Twitter account to access it:

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by main post office
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Be advised if you head over to the main Post Office - taking E Embarcadero Rd, there is a major "lake" as you head to the P.O. and it isn't all that visible - leading to fast braking of multiple cars and splashing. Don't know if there is a clogged street drain nearby; don't know if this is PA or EPA, but many Palo Altans use the main P.O. so that is why I am giving this info if anyone plans to drive over there.

2 people like this
Posted by Receiving alerts
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

The PAPD sent out a helpful voice mail alert to people that are signed up for it, to avoid driving between the hours of 2PM and 8PM, in order to lessen commuter traffic build-up, if possible. It was good to get that message, knowing that Oregon at Alma is closed. The message was clear and that system worked very well today.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Oregon/Page Mill underpass at Alma is now open.

See PA Police Dept info on roads/flooding/power outages at their Google PA storm map at

Web Link

1 person likes this
Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Here's the Google Mountain View storm map for Palo Altans who cross the city limits.

Web Link

In addition to various local police department Twitter and Facebook accounts, you can also sign up at and subscribe to alerts. Nixle also has smartphone apps.

With Nixle, I've signed up for alerts from hometown Mtn View PD, but also Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale DPS since those are neighboring towns.

1 person likes this
Posted by fomad
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Don't drive between 2-8pm? Good thing that's when schools let out and PA workers will be on the roads! Good luck with that.

5 people like this
Posted by De Nile
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Funny how the Utility Department refused to believe, despite meteorological evidence to the contrary, that this would be an El Niño year. This storm is coming from the South Pacific.

1 person likes this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:37 pm

@fomad -good luck with that. PAUSD PIO sent the following to employees this afternoon, "We know that there has been an advisory issued encouraging people to stay off of local streets from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m. It is important to remember that this is just an advisory ..." PAUSD employees, many of whom commute beyond our city limits, drove home on flooded streets and highways. PAUSD students living near the Chaucer bridge and those living in EPA slogged home as well. Stanford and many other employers acted in support of PAPD - why not PAUSD?

Like this comment
Posted by Barron Creek neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm

The City refuses to provide a creek monitor for Barron Creek, even though lots of residents live near it, and it goes across the whole city, just like the other creeks. We have to put on out rain gear and get wet if we want to see how high the water is getting.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Dec 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

As I sit here listening to the rain sounding as if it will not relent, I am reminded of 1998. Parents were woken with phone calls at 7.00 am to inform that the schools were closed because of flooding.

I don't know the history of who made the call when and what the criteria was that closed the schools, but if they decide to do it tomorrow, at least the technology should make that action easier, if needed.

Check emails before heading out tomorrow!

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Palo Alto High School

on Sep 26, 2017 at 7:10 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Chick-fil-A quietly starts delivering out of DoorDash kitchen in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 59 comments | 9,517 views

Palo Altans and their Virtue Signaling
By Sherry Listgarten | 24 comments | 2,754 views

Differentiating Grief from Clinical Depression
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,480 views

Halloween with grandma
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 721 views

A Voter Warning from a Wise Friend
By Diana Diamond | 14 comments | 706 views