As the latest storm hit the Midpeninsula, the combination of rain water and its runoff from the foothills and tidal flow prompted National Weather Service and local authorities to issue a flood watch for the City of East Palo Alto on Tuesday at about 10:40 a.m.
Residents in the area were encouraged to prepare to move to higher ground. Authorities urged the public to avoid low-lying areas on the south side of the city. West Bayshore Road was closed between Woodland and Channing avenues due to flooding at Woodland Avenue, and there was no estimate as of late Tuesday morning when the roadway would reopen.
One voluntary evacuation took place in the 1900 block of West Bayshore, Commander Jeff Liu of the East Palo Alto Police Department told Palo Alto Online. The city's senior center, at 560 Bell St., opened to receive evacuees.
Steve Mahaley of the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services said Tuesday morning that no mandatory evacuations were taking place.
At Yeaman Auto Body in the 2000 block of East Bayshore Road, about eight people were laying out black sandbags in the late morning to protect the business from encroaching San Francisquito Creek water. Several staff were trying to push water back into the creek. The shop's manager said that water had already entered into the building.
The City of Palo Alto activated its Emergency Operation Center to monitor the creek water, police reported at about 11 a.m. Out of all five of Palo Alto's bridges, only West Bayshore could potentially flood, police said on Twitter. (See the city's Palo Alto Creek Monitor page). As of 12:45 p.m., water was up to 14.7 feet; maximum capacity is at 16.7 feet, the city website states.
The creek water continued to rise at the Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge even as the rainstorm broke.
Residents with their cameras watched nervously as large logs struck the side of the bridge, then, forced by the water's power, were pulled under and through the bridge tunnel.
"I don't think we'll see kids kayaking today," local resident Everardo Luna said. He added that he was concerned that residents might have to evacuate.
Water levels reached 19 feet at Pope-Chaucer as of 12:45 p.m.; flood level is 24 feet, but at 16 feet, water reaches the underneath arch of the bridge.
Charles Minkler, who lives on the Menlo Park side of the creek, had been watching the water rise for about 40 minutes.
"When I got here I could see the branches down there (now covered by rushing water) and several plants were not touching the water. I could see the tip of the archway. It has come up another foot higher," he said.
Barbara Coll, a Menlo Park resident on Woodland Road, said her home is just one of three outside of the designated 100-year-flood zone.
"It proved true that night. I remember 1998. The water came right up to the yellow line in the middle of the street. Then it stopped and went away because the creek was breached on the Palo Alto side," she said.
Minkler was cautious. Although the water had seemed to level off, he was still sticking around to keep an eye on the creek.
"I just want to make sure before I go home. I have my sandbags waiting. I was going to take a nap before I go off to my second job. I can't nap until I know what's going to happen," he said.
Minkler stared into the swirling water as flotsam was pulled under the bridge. Balls bobbed downstream; a bike helmet was carried off until it disappeared; enormous logs that first seemed lodged in the debris of smaller branches in turns were pushed under the bridge.
He marveled at the water's power.
"I saw a large water container that was empty. If it can get sucked under, imagine what (the water) would do to a person or a dog," he said.
With the storm subsiding Tuesday afternoon, so did the danger of flooding. Palo Alto's Emergency Operations Center deactivated at 3:42 p.m. Menlo Park police messaged at 4:20 p.m. that the flood watch at Pope/Chaucer Bridge was cancelled.
At about 4:45 p.m., the creek no longer showed signs of potential flooding, according to an alert from the San Franciscquito Creek Joint Powers Authority.
• See the San Francisquito Creek flood early-warning map.
Alerta de la Ciudad de East Palo Alto
El Servicio Meteorológico Nacional y las autoridades locales han emitido un aviso de inundación para la Ciudad de East Palo Alto. Se recomienda a los residentes de la zona que se preparen para trasladarse a un terreno más alto. Todos los demás, deben evitar las zonas bajas en el lado sur de la ciudad.
West Bayshore Blvd. está cerrado a Woodland and Channing. Utilice rutas alternativas.
Para obtener información adicional y actualizaciones, visite www.cityofepa.org.