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Anyone else smell foul odor 2-4am?

Original post made by Chris Zaharias, Crescent Park, on Jul 29, 2014

OK, so please don't laugh at my post, which is gonna be super easy to make fun of. Both my neighbor and I (and our wives) have smelled the same extremely foul odor between two and four in the morning, coming in through our open windows.

It's possibly a skunk, though the smell IMO more resembles what one encounters on Hwy 5 when passing the huge cow farm, which is to say more of an earthy, fertilizerish rank. The smell of a skunk is much more pleasant than what we're smelling.

My neighbor and I have ruled out gas (natural or human, we're not that powerful) and are just trying to get to the bottom of it (no pun intended).

Anyone else smelling that, or have an idea what it is?

Comments (12)

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Posted by no
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2014 at 8:39 am

We didn't smell anything unusual. What street do you live on?


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Posted by Its death, but from life
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2014 at 9:51 am

Spring creates a bloom of life all along the south bay bay-lands. Summer brings a die off and hot weather brings decay, exposed more at low tides. What you are smelling may very well be summer stink that has been common around the bay for centuries.


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Posted by I did
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Yes, I did notice it and I am so glad you mentioned it. Here I thought it was something in my house (I am not OCD clean, but far from gross disgusting hoarder, etc.)

I live in north mountain view near the los altos and palo alto border. Trash day is Monday so I though it might be related to that when at about 1:30 am I noticed that odor. I thought it might be something lingering in the house after having done an almost thorough inventory of the fridge, wastebaskets, etc. I got out of bed, took one more small container outside -- and it was worse out there!

By morning, i.e., 9:00 a.m. the smell was gone.

This morning I noticed it was back, though not nearly as intense. I thought -- wait a minute -- now what? Now I know; it isn't in my house; it's out there.

Thank you again for posting. I'd like to know what's really up. Maybe it's the bay; I'm a few miles away from it.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Is this perhaps related to the baylands? We can still smell the PA dump on the baylands, and then of course, the baylands has its own biological breakdown, resulting in a symphony of smells. Sometimes it seems more unbearable near Shoreline Park, but it seems to vary at different times of the day and in different seasons, from Redwood City through Mt. View.


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

The low tides exposing decomposing organic matter makes sense (though I'm no expert). The smells have occurred 1-2 hours after low tide.


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Posted by spraying
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 29, 2014 at 9:57 pm

What about the spraying that's being done for mosquitos? I haven't seen a schedule recently but know it has happened. What does that chemical smell like?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:19 pm

>> smelled the same extremely foul odor between two and four in the morning, coming in through our open windows. It's possibly a skunk, though the smell IMO more resembles what one encounters on Hwy 5 when passing the huge cow farm

So, definitely an organic type smell?

Is there a breeze when you smell it and which direction is it coming from?

Have you ever gotten up and tried to track it down? Do you smell it equally all around your house?

Is this something that just started or have you noticed it for a long time? Is it every night?

I live in Crescent Park and I have not noticed anything ... but the occasional skunk, and my rotten neighbors who insist on occasionally burning wood outside at the end of hot days when me and most of my neighbors have our windows open to try to cool down. I go to the Baylands quite often and so am very familiar with the stench of the sewage treatment plant, and I have never smelled it from my home or anywhere in Palo Alto for that matter.

One thing I have noticed is that street sweepers sometimes seem to use a chemical to clean that streets that smells to me like a solvent ... but that is not really an organic kind of smell.

I think you need to give us some more information.

Are any of your neighbors spouses missing? ;-)


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Posted by mystery solved
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 30, 2014 at 12:49 pm

There's an article and thread on this in the MV Voice from September 2009. Apparently someone wrote in wondering about a rotten egg sulfur smell back then. Yup, it's the bay -- and it happens about he same time every year. Good to know.


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Posted by Terrence
a resident of University South
on Jul 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Skunks mark their territory using the familiar, curl-your-hair scent. It is only a tiny amount, not like when they are spraying an attacker. A little goes a long way when it comes to skunks, however, and so things can get aromatic. An open window is all it takes. There are plenty of skunks in Palo Alto, even near downtown.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 31, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

So I was likely correct - it's the bay just doing its thing - more stinkily in the summertime.


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Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Has anyone else smelled smoke for the past 30 min, in the vicinity of Edgewood north of Embarcadero? It has a chemical quality to it, but doesn't seem likely strong enough to warrant a call to the PAFD. Maybe an outdoor fire pit?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

There is a lot of work going on at shoreline on Charleston - digging up the landfill to re-route the road. Also - call the utility department - a number of broken pipes is dumping waste into the bay in San Mateo - maybe coming down here. Ask the utility department if they are doing anything at night to avoid disruption during the day - like cleaning waste ponds.


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