Storm preparations underway in Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Storm preparations underway in Palo Alto

Efforts include vegetation removal, enhanced sandbagging and more

As weather forecasters warn of El Nino that will bring intense rain storms this winter, the cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, the San Mateo County Flood Control District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District are working with the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) to reduce the risk of flooding.

"The first priority remains the safety of communities and protection of homes, and efforts are focused on both," a City of Palo Alto press release states.

Officials completed the annual San Francisquito Creek maintenance walk on Aug. 19-20, and potential public safety problems, including overgrowth, large debris and broken or dead trees (which can be carried by high water flows and become lodged under bridges or inside culverts) were tagged for modification or removal.

About five times the number of items from last year were tagged, including dead or fallen trees and invasive species, according to officials.

The City of Palo Alto is in the process of clearing debris in the channel upstream of Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge. The city will also remove vegetation in the creek farther downstream between Marlowe Street and U.S. Highway 101. Work will take place during the first two weeks of October.

"Native species including willows must be left in the creek due to regulatory constraints from the state, but the experts indicate these plants will not impact creek flow during a high-volume event," according to the press release.

The city has also filled a degraded spot in the berm around the Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge. The City of Menlo Park is also performing the same repair work on the other side of the bridge.

Other storm preparations include enhanced sandbagging of potential flood zones, as well as all-agency exercises between the SFCJPA and other emergency response organizations to integrate their operations and communications.

SFCJPA and Palo Alto officials have developed a new website that will provide residents and emergency responders more than twice the advance warning of potential flooding as compared to the city's current website, which monitors San Francisquito, Matadero and Adobe creeks.

The new website will feature a color-coded map showing the likelihood of flooding at key points along the channel and in specific neighborhoods. The site will also allow for two-way communication with the SFCJPA.

As part of educational outreach, officials will distribute emergency response contact information to the public, as well as information on how to check creek levels and details about the San Francisquito Creek flood-protection project.

A study session on winter storm preparedness is scheduled with the City Council at its regular meeting on Oct. 19. For more information, visit

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3 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 10:41 am

When the streets in our neighborhood were resurfaced this summer, all of the storm drains were covered with thick cloth. I hope these covers are removed before El Nino arrives.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2015 at 10:55 am


Call Public Works. Their job tracking abilities tend to the weak side.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:36 am

Is there a timeline for the clean up and repair efforts?

14 people like this
Posted by How to report a storm drain problem.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm

To report problems with storm drains, call 496-6974.
To report utilities EMERGENCIES, call 329-2571.

Communicate problems to the people who manage the resources to solve them. Be a proactive and helpful citizen. We are the city's eyes and ears. Let's work together with our city government to make things work well for all of us.

Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2015 at 12:22 pm

The NOAA predicts that most of the El Nino rains will be from Central California to Southern California.

26 people like this
Posted by Stranger than Truth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Funny thing is, the city did NO stormprep in 1997.... But for a couple of years afterward, they sure did. By the year 2000, they petered out again.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandbags
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:21 pm

When will sandbags be avsilable?

1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

@ Hmmm: The article states that the clean up will take place during the first two weeks of October.

5 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm

The silt and vegetation have still not been cleared out of the channelized portion of Adobe Creek. Previously, these have been bulldozed clear. Here's what I have been told:


Thank you for your e-mail message regarding vegetation in Adobe Creek. I spoke to the Santa Clara Valley Water District vegetation management staff about the vegetation depicted in the photo attached to your message, and they responded that they typically apply water-safe herbicide to vegetation like that. Subsequently, the vegetation dies and decomposes and then it is washed away during any heavy creek flows. Considering that the District maintains over 550 miles of stream in Santa Clara County, this is a practical and effective approach that will maintain the flow capacity of the channel. Also, as you know, the District has improved Adobe Creek to handle the predicted 1% flow rate, including the FEMA-required freeboard, so the risk of flooding at this location is relatively small. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. If you have questions or need further information, you may contact me at (650) 329-2129.

Joe Teresi
Senior Engineer
Public Works Engineering Services
(650) 329-2129

9 people like this
Posted by Nancy Lowe
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

It would be a shame to lose all the El Nino water down a storm drain and into the Bay, or running off the hard baked clay soil instead of being contained>

Is there some way to catch recycle the torrent of water from the storm drains?

Could a city-wide creation of swales - ditches of hold water allowing it to soak in - be undertaken. Davis had had incredible success sustaining trees with swale caught and absorbed water for years.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Crescent Park Dad - thank you. I did see that info, but I was just being demanding and hoping a more detailed schedule was online somewhere - you know, what section of the creek would be tackled on which day. No biggie - I can email the JPA.

2 people like this
Posted by 60 Years Late
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm

"Could a city-wide creation of swales - ditches of hold water allowing it to soak in - be undertaken."

Probably, if there was someplace to put them. Every square inch in PA has some kind of pricey development on it.

2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 10:09 am

Arthur - thank you for the info. I am not gratified that the city is dumping herbicides in the creek since we have ducks, other birds, and animals dependent on the water provided. That does not sound very "green" to me - in fact that is the opposite of "green". That is disturbing news.

10 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:38 am

Twenty some odd years ago when I lived near the Pope/Chaucer street bridge the neighborhood would gather around said bridge during a heavy storm. Much pinot noir was consumed and many looks of "uh-oh" were exchanged. Hopefully this practice does not need to be repeated, except for the pinot of course.

1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2015 at 10:59 am

mauricio is a registered user.

It's unlikely we will get much rain. The prediction is that Central and Souther California will get the brunt of the rain, IF we get much of it. I'm afraid that Northern California will see very little of it, just like we have seen almost no rain in the last four years.

3 people like this
Posted by ClimateScientist
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:43 pm

During a typical El Niño, Northern CA (north of the Bay Area) and the Pacific Northwest get dry and Southern California gets very wet. The Bay Area is in a gray area, or what I like to think of as a 'splash zone.' Models don't show any particular dry or wet trend for our region. HOWEVER, with any El Niño, especially a monster El Niño (as this one is predicted to be), the Bay Area can be totally drenched. We had a wet winter in 2010 and that was just a mild El Niño. Hold on to your hats boys and girls, because we are in for a wild ride!

3 people like this
Posted by Bears Repeating
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:55 pm

This is what I have been reading/hearing in/on : the Economist; my brother-in-law, a climatologist @ UC Davis; BBCWorld News; NPR; KQED Radio's California Report, etc.....

Listen to the above Climate Scientist and be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.

And remember, 2006 was a "mild" El Niño--but it really did big damage to the CA wine industry!

---Your Local Enologist

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