Power Outages, Travel Delays, Big Waves as First Winter Storm Soaks Bay Area

Rebecca Greenway

In the Bay Area, the fallout from the first winter storm stopped thousands of drivers in their tracks during the Friday morning commute.

But the wet weather, triggered by a tornado that walloped the Pacific Northwest, also saw a homeless woman in San Rafael helping a young boy.

When the first raindrops fell, many people pulled out coats and ducked under umbrellas. Sherry Petrakis doesn't have much, but she gave up the only thing she could, when she noticed a child without a hat or jacket.[[397144441,C]]

"I know his grandmother and she had no umbrella and I asked him if he wanted a hat, my hat and he said, 'Yes,' so I took it off of my head and gave it to him," she said of the warm moment in the otherwise wet and dreary day.

The storm caused heavy rain, gusty winds and coastal flooding on Friday, and is expected to make its presence felt through part of Saturday. 

Rain fell all morning long, keeping California Highway Patrol officers busy in the North Bay. 

The most serious crash happened around 8:30 a.m. when a produce truck flipped over on northbound Highway 101 near North San Pedro Road. Traffic in both directions – and well beyond the freeway – slowed to a crawl for hours in Marin County.

"It appears the driver started to lose control of the vehicle, when he attempted to correct," but instead rammed into a cement wall, CHP officer Andrew Barclay said. 

By 12 p.m., 30 accidents had been reported, Barclay said.

"It's gridlock everywhere," San Rafael resident Russ Young complained. “It’s a mess.”

Meanwhile, strong winds also caused more than 12,600 power outages as of 3 p.m. At the peak of the storm, more than 23,000 people were in the dark.

"I heard like a loud thud," said David Zoeter of Lafayette. The sound he heard was the power going out at his house. 

Overall, Oakland and San Francisco could both see more than an inch of rain before the weekend is over, National Weather Service meteorologist Sierra Brune said. Winds will range from 10 to 20 mph with gusts of around 30 mph.

StormRanger Tracks Bay Area Storm

In San Francisco, traffic signals at 20th and Valencia streets in the Mission District briefly stopped working. And in Bernal Heights, Preston Sales pulled out his cell phone to shoot video of a utility pole smoldering on Bayshore Boulevard.

“I thought it was going to fall into the street,” he said, calling the sight a “pretty unique experience.”

A PG&E spokesperson said dust and dirt accumulate during dry weather and can, after the first light rain, turn to mud and conduct electricity. It’s rare, but flashovers do occur, according to PG&E.

Lou Dang, who runs City Auto Tech, was forced to send his employees home early when the store lost power.

“I just tell them to stay inside and make sure everybody is safe,” he said. “So what are you going to do for the day? We had to close.”

By late Friday morning, coastal cities on the Peninsula were being hit by large waves, much to the delight of surfers.

Matthew Pottenger said he caught a wave that was among the "top five" of his life, and was a "great way to start the season off."

But stormwatchers were paying close attention to Pacifica, the site of severe cliff erosion last year. And the remnant coastal damage has Mayor Sue Digre worrying "a great deal about our city infrastructure for one thing, and the safety and health of our citizens," she said.

The weather prompted delays at San Francisco International Airport where 66 delays have been reported and 70 flights have been canceled. The situation could worsen, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel, who suggested that travelers should check with their airlines before going to the airport.

On the roads, CHP officers were faced with an increase in traffic collisions and asked drivers to slow down and increase the distance between themselves and cars ahead of them.

People should give themselves more time to get to their destinations, according to the CHP. Roads are also expected to be slick because the first significant rainfall in more than six months has brought oil and debris to the surface. 

A power outage near Daly City at about 8 a.m. caused a systemwide delay on BART. At the height of the problem, trains were running 30 to 60 minutes behind schedule.

However, the inconveniences of navigating through wet weather were lost on 3-year-old Sloane Rivas. When asked what she enjoyed most, the Danville child replied: "Splash in the puddle."

Students at San Ramon Valley High School also refused to let the storm rain on their homecoming parade.

“We are hanging in there,” student Erin Michaud said, noting that many of her friends had donned ponchos to “protect [their] instruments.”

We’re “going to do our best,” she promised.

The Office of Emergency Services reminds residents to prepare for rain and potential effects with the necessary tools and recommendations:

  • Prepare an emergency kit.
  • Have a flashlight ready with fresh batteries.
  • Clean out rain gutters, culverts, and streamways.
  • Don’t drive through standing water.
  • Stay away from downed powerlines and trees.
  • Protect outdoor items from wind and rain.

For information on preparing for a winter storm, visit the American Red Cross website. For locations in Contra Costa County where free sandbags are available, visit the county website. For more about Bay Area weather, visit

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