Early Autumn Storm Smacks Bay Area

Flooding, heavy rains and winds spur evacuations

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jodi Hernandez
    Driving down O street in Antioch is not advised.

    The long-promised first storm of the season smacked into the Bay Area with a warm, wet payload.

    Heavy wind and rain started before sunrise, while most everyone was still tucked comfortably in their beds.  As soon as we locked the door behind us we knew this was not going to be your typical October day.

    The horrible morning commute was topped in the p.m. hours with even a more horrible evening ride home.   Major arteries were blocked by big rigs that could stay upright in the wind, including Highway 17 and the Richmond San Rafael Bridge.  One bore of the Caldecott Tunnel had to be shut down due to flooding.

    High wind warnings are in effect through 11 p.m. in coastal and hilly areas, and high wind advisories have been issued for inland valleys.  The strongest gusts, about 70 miles per hour, were recorded on Mt. Diablo and in Los Gatos.

    RAW VIDEO: Driving Conditions

    [BAY] RAW VIDEO: Driving Conditions
    Driving was not fun during this week's storm. (Published Tuesday, Oct 13, 2009)

    The winds also knocked down a key power line along Path 15 in the Central Valley.  Cal ISO declared a power emergency.  They say without that line, they lost a third of their capacity to bring power to Northern California and asked everyone in the Northern part of the state to conserve.  Read more here.

    The early autumn storm stems from Typhoon Melor, which hit Japan a few days ago.

    It's not a cold one, but this storm is bringing gusts of up to 50 mph in some parts of the Bay Area.

    The Santa Cruz Office of Emergency Services ordered homes near the site of the recent Lockheed Fire to evacuate, saying the threat of mudslides was real, especially near Davenport, Calif.

    A second evacuation order was called at 5 p.m. for about 80 homes on Eureka Canyon Road from Ormsby Road south to Camp Koinonia.  One home was hit by a landslide on Eureka Canyon trapping a resident.   The woman isn't hurt, but she couldn't  get out of her home without the assistance of CalFire. 

    Authorities also used reverse 911 calls to get out the word starting at  8:30 a.m.  About 60 homes off Swanton Road from the Cheese House to Scott Creek were affected by the order (here's a complete Santa Cruz road closure list ).

    The Lockheed Fire burned 7,817 acres, or 12 square miles, last August. With little vegetation now on the hillsides, heavy rain could lead to mudslides and debris flow.

    Rainfall totals reached 3-4 inches in some spots by midday, including Los Trancos Woods in San Mateo County.

    Here's a quick breakdown of the rain totals in some parts of the region:

    • Ben Lomond: 5.30"
    • San Rafael: 3.80"
    • St. Helena: 2.48"
    • Mt.Diablo: 2.25"
    • Mill Valley: 2.20"
    • Oakland: 2.11"
    • SFO: 1.71"
    • Palo Alto: .74"

    Heavy gusts were blamed for knocking down tree and onto a Toyota Prius in downtown San Anselmo as a driver waited at a stoplight. Crews worked in the rain to free the car and clear the roadway. It could have been a different story but amazingly, nobody was hurt and the car was barely damaged.  Oddly enough, the license plate on the Prius reads "TREEDOM."

    The storm is also to blame for bringing down an oak in Oakland. The tree fell in the back yard of a house, knocking out a window. "It sounded like an earthquake," one resident told NBC Bay Area.

    A tipster in San Francisco snapped some pictures of a utility pole that toppled over and landed on the Muni lines at Haight and Broderick. Mark Grissom tells us he watched as crews scrambled to shut down the route as they worked to safely remove the pole. See Grissom's photostream.

    Pacific Gas and Electric crews are ready for power outages that almost always come with these major storms. Hundreds of residents in the Santa Cruz mountain community of Felton were among the first lose power Tuesday morning. By daylight, there were about 10,000 PG&E customers in the entire Bay Area reportedly without power.

    The storm is making it a "rain day" for students at San Lorenzo High School, Middle School and Elementary School in Felton. The high school lost power early this morning and the possibility of it going out again was enough for school officials to call off classes.

    Flash flood watches are in effect. The threat of flooding was enough to send people packing -- sand bags, that is. People who live in live in flood-prone areas in the North Bay, Peninsula and areas around Highway 17 packed sand bags and some even used bales of hay to help get ready for the high waters. Take a look at NOAA's River Guidance Web site, which shows rivers and creeks, what their levels should be on a normal basis and how the rain is affecting them as experts monitor the water levels.

    Potential effects of the storm include mud and debris flows, flooding, downed power lines and hazardous driving conditions.

    By Tuesday night, the heavier, widespread rain should be pushing south of Monterey with scattered showers to follow into Wednesday and Thursday. Friday looks dry, but increasing clouds will be increasing as another, much weaker system tosses a few showers into the North Bay early into the weekend.

    The storm is also causing delays in and out of San Francisco International Airport. If you are leaving from a Bay Area airport today or expecting an arrival, call the airline before you leave the house to find out if there are delays.

    The Statewide View

     A big-rig crash tangled traffic Tuesday on rain-slickened Interstate 5 in south Sacramento, resulting in a 12-mile backup for northbound commuters as the first major storm of the season hit Northern California.

    The southbound truck hit standing water and crashed shortly before 6 a.m. along I-5 near Seamas Avenue, the California Highway Patrol said. The rig came to rest on the freeway median and partially blocked northbound lanes. The truck was not expected to be removed until about 9 a.m. Two people were hurt.

    Meanwhile, thousands of people were left without electricity as a result of a system that forecasters predict will dump one to three inches of rain along the coast and about two inches in the Sacramento area. Besides heavy rain, the storm is also packing some powerful winds. A high wind warning has been issued from Point Reyes south to the Big Sur coast, with forecasters predicting wind gusts could hit 60 miles per hour along the coast.

    The capital region is expected to see wind gusts of up to 40 mph. Some minor street flooding is expected. Sacramento Municipal Utility District said about 4,000 people were left without electricity in 15 separate outages in Sacramento County. Thousands found themselves in the dark in Elk Grove when a utility pole caught fire, according to Chris Capra of SMUD. Pacific Gas and Electric representative Brian Swanson said 10,000 customers were without power in Yolo and Solano counties. That total included 4,700 customers in Fairfield, 3,900 in Davis and 1,000 in Suisun City.

    "It's an all-hands-on-deck event for PG&E," Swanson said. "We have all available resources ready to respond to outages when and where they occur." PG&E customers may call 1-800-743-5000 to report a power outage, while SMUD customers may call 1-888-456-7683.

    In the Sierra Nevada, forecasters said several feet of snow may fall on some of the higher peaks. The National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for parts of Marin, Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. The advisory was issued at around 6:30 a.m. and was set to remain in effect until 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.

     A flash flood watch was issued for Tuesday evening through Wednesday for the foothills below Los Angeles and Santa Barbara wildfire areas. People living near burn areas near the Station Fire burn in Angeles National Forest have been warned to brace for possible flows of mud, ash and debris with rainfall of up to 6 inches. Areas of concern include Tujunga, La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge.