After flood warnings were issued on the Peninsula Sunday night, dozens of residents were allowed back in their homes Monday morning. Stephanie Chuang reports.
Back home – just in time for Christmas celebrations.
Families under voluntary evacuations in East Palo Alto were able to wake up in their home Monday morning, their houses spared from indoor flooding coming from the nearby San Francisquito Creek. It was the third highest creek flow since monitoring was put in place in 1930.
It was a different story for people like Paris Sims, who said her family has lived in the same Daphne Way house for more than 50 years, living a worse flood that hit in 1998. “It seems like it’s gotten worse. It’s been raining consistently for the last three days so as a resident of a home of 40, 50 years, where you going to go?”
Sims added the flooding happened very fast. A neighbor knocked on her door at about 6 p.m. Sunday with a warning that the water was already hitting their yards. “That’s when I got my parents, they’re elderly and we said, ‘Okay, time to go.’ But within minutes, the water was in the front yard.” It soon leaked into her converted garage, where the beige carpet turned a muddy brown. The Sims house was one of six under mandatory evacuation along Daphne Way. Their houses sit right next to the creek, which runs through both residential and commercial areas in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park.
The Salgado family lives on a neighboring street. Brian Salgado said it’s the first time he’s experienced anything like this since the family moved into East Palo Alto in 1998. “My mom came into my room telling me that the police came to the house and told us to evacuate. I didn’t think anything was going to happen but my mom was real worried so we just all left."
Public works crews in all three cities have been monitoring the creek and levees yesterday and are set to continue today. Around 10 a.m. Monday, East Palo Alto officials walked the levee behind the Daphne Way homes and noticed a few small holes in the levee. The concern now is water not only cresting over but going through the levee like it did Sunday night. Len Materman, executive director of the creek’s Joint Powers Authority, said state officials are on their way down this Christmas Eve, ahead of the expected rain late Tuesday. They will determine what work needs to be done to plug those holes, also known as “boils,” for the water that bubbles up.
In the long term, Materman said the JPA’s project in the work for decades is still on track. Widening the creek, building up the levee and floodwalls are expected to begin next summer. First, though, is relocating utilities. Materman added there’s a PG&E gas line and a sewer line that run below the creek. Once that part is taken care of, the construction can begin.
As for cleaning her house this holiday, Sims said it’s all about perspective. “People are having a really tough time this year, I mean we could be Hurricane Sandy victims and come back to nothing, to where our house used to stand. You just take it for what it’s worth and don’t take it for granted.”