News

Storm brings fires, power outages to the Bay Area

Century-old redwood tree in Palo Alto is struck by lightning; photographers capture the unusual weather

Viewed from the Emily Renzel Ponds in Palo Alto, lightning bolts illuminate the early Sunday morning sky. Courtesy Brian Krippendorf.

The unusual weekend thunderstorm and lightning that sparked wildfires and left thousands of residents without power across the Bay Area also caused one Palo Alto casualty: a majestic redwood tree, estimated to be at least 115 years old.

Sometime between 5-5:30 a.m. on Sunday, former Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto was jolted awake by a huge thunderclap, seemingly above her head. Then came the sounds of a long "crack" and branches brushing up against her Professorville home, she said. She got up to investigate.

"When I looked out to the back of the house, I couldn't believe my eyes: Our redwood tree was gone! At least the top half. Apparently the tree exploded, splitting down the middle," Kishimoto wrote in an email.

A redwood tree in Palo Alto estimated to be at least 115 years old was struck by lightning Sunday morning. Courtesy Yoriko Kishimoto.

Not only was the trunk cracked open, but branches along the sides of the tree had been sheared off. Boughs lay strewn on top of a backyard shed and across a fence.

Kishimoto's neighbor on one side texted her to say that his dining room window had been broken but the tree had caused no other damage, she said. Two other neighbors' properties that are close to the redwood were spared.

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"The giant tree fell well," said Kishimoto, who is also a member of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board of directors.

The storm also brought shutterbugs out early Sunday morning to catch the dramatic light show. Palo Alto resident Brian Krippendorf went to a favorite photo spot of his, the Palo Alto Baylands, to see what he could shoot. The experience was a first for him, he said. Among the shots he captured: three lightning bolts striking at once, with their reflection mirrored in the Emily Renzel Ponds.

Lightning can be seen in the distance in the early morning on Aug. 16 at the Emily Renzel Ponds in Palo Alto. Courtesy Brian Krippendorf.

The storm arrived off the coast of California early Sunday morning and migrated northeast into the Bay Area around 3 a.m., prompting widespread reports over social media of a bright and loud stream of thunder waking up residents.

About 4,500 customers in the Palo Verde/Meadow Park area of Palo Alto lost power Sunday morning when lightning struck a utility pole and caused a small fire. City of Palo Alto Utilities expected most of the customers to get power back by about 10 a.m.

PG&E also reported a power outage for 366 customers in the Palo Alto Hills as of 8:13 a.m., as well as 185 customers in Mountain View's Cuesta Park neighborhood.

The National Weather Service reported a "continued stream" of thunderstorms through the Bay Area Sunday morning, along with gusty winds in excess of 40 mph. The agency issued a "special weather statement," warning of possible power outages, wildfires and downed trees and power lines through 8 a.m. Monday.

The NWS urged people to seek shelter — indoors or in a vehicle — if they have heard thunder within the last 30 minutes, adding that lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm.

Lightning touches down in an eastern neighborhood of Palo Alto at 5:25 a.m. Sunday morning, Aug. 16., and a public bus (lower left) drives along East Bayshore Road. Courtesy Brian Krippendorf.

A red flag and dry lightning fire danger warning for the Bay Area was extended through 11 a.m. Monday.

Several Bay Area fires sparked between Saturday night and Sunday morning, including seven vegetation fires across San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The Santa Clara County Fire Department also reported that downed power lines started a fire off of Highway 17 on Brush Road around 3 a.m. Sunday, prompting the evacuation of 20 residents. The fire was contained at 6 a.m. after it scorched a little more than an acre.

The thunderstorms come in the middle of a prolonged Bay Area heat wave that is expected to continue into Wednesday, which has brought sweltering, record-breaking temperatures between the upper 90s and low 100s. Temperatures are expected to rise with a "peak" on Tuesday.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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Storm brings fires, power outages to the Bay Area

Century-old redwood tree in Palo Alto is struck by lightning; photographers capture the unusual weather

by /

Uploaded: Sun, Aug 16, 2020, 9:16 am
Updated: Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 9:00 am

The unusual weekend thunderstorm and lightning that sparked wildfires and left thousands of residents without power across the Bay Area also caused one Palo Alto casualty: a majestic redwood tree, estimated to be at least 115 years old.

Sometime between 5-5:30 a.m. on Sunday, former Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto was jolted awake by a huge thunderclap, seemingly above her head. Then came the sounds of a long "crack" and branches brushing up against her Professorville home, she said. She got up to investigate.

"When I looked out to the back of the house, I couldn't believe my eyes: Our redwood tree was gone! At least the top half. Apparently the tree exploded, splitting down the middle," Kishimoto wrote in an email.

Not only was the trunk cracked open, but branches along the sides of the tree had been sheared off. Boughs lay strewn on top of a backyard shed and across a fence.

Kishimoto's neighbor on one side texted her to say that his dining room window had been broken but the tree had caused no other damage, she said. Two other neighbors' properties that are close to the redwood were spared.

"The giant tree fell well," said Kishimoto, who is also a member of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board of directors.

The storm also brought shutterbugs out early Sunday morning to catch the dramatic light show. Palo Alto resident Brian Krippendorf went to a favorite photo spot of his, the Palo Alto Baylands, to see what he could shoot. The experience was a first for him, he said. Among the shots he captured: three lightning bolts striking at once, with their reflection mirrored in the Emily Renzel Ponds.

The storm arrived off the coast of California early Sunday morning and migrated northeast into the Bay Area around 3 a.m., prompting widespread reports over social media of a bright and loud stream of thunder waking up residents.

About 4,500 customers in the Palo Verde/Meadow Park area of Palo Alto lost power Sunday morning when lightning struck a utility pole and caused a small fire. City of Palo Alto Utilities expected most of the customers to get power back by about 10 a.m.

PG&E also reported a power outage for 366 customers in the Palo Alto Hills as of 8:13 a.m., as well as 185 customers in Mountain View's Cuesta Park neighborhood.

The National Weather Service reported a "continued stream" of thunderstorms through the Bay Area Sunday morning, along with gusty winds in excess of 40 mph. The agency issued a "special weather statement," warning of possible power outages, wildfires and downed trees and power lines through 8 a.m. Monday.

The NWS urged people to seek shelter — indoors or in a vehicle — if they have heard thunder within the last 30 minutes, adding that lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm.

A red flag and dry lightning fire danger warning for the Bay Area was extended through 11 a.m. Monday.

Several Bay Area fires sparked between Saturday night and Sunday morning, including seven vegetation fires across San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The Santa Clara County Fire Department also reported that downed power lines started a fire off of Highway 17 on Brush Road around 3 a.m. Sunday, prompting the evacuation of 20 residents. The fire was contained at 6 a.m. after it scorched a little more than an acre.

The thunderstorms come in the middle of a prolonged Bay Area heat wave that is expected to continue into Wednesday, which has brought sweltering, record-breaking temperatures between the upper 90s and low 100s. Temperatures are expected to rise with a "peak" on Tuesday.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Comments

Wow!
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:37 am
Wow!, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:37 am

So glad you and your family and home weren't harmed, Yoriko. Sad to lose such a majestic tree.

Our dog was jolted awake by a thunder clap that sent her bolting from the floor into our bed where she tunneled between us and under our pillows for shelter. She was terrified. What a crazy night. The storm was a magnificent show of nature's force, and rather too close for comfort.


dontliveinCA
Registered user
another community
on Aug 17, 2020 at 1:14 pm
dontliveinCA, another community
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 1:14 pm

Sad to lose the tree, but glad no one was injured.....weird times out there weather-wise.....good luck to all!


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2020 at 4:41 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 4:41 pm

So why all the blackouts?

"California Governor Gavin Newsom called for an investigation into why officials failed to anticipate the need for rolling blackouts that have left millions of people without power. This month is the first time the state has resorted to intentional outages since the 2001 energy crisis. Part of the problem is the California's rapid shift away from natural gas, according to BloombergNEF."

Sure, let's rush to force people into more costly, less reliable electrical power without the proper planning. More governing by sloganeering without considering the full consequences.


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