Branches and tree trunks clogged the West Bayshore overpass at San Francisquito Creek on Sunday afternoon and evening, with crews spending more than 24 hours to remove the massive amount of debris.
The dam of vegetation, with some tree trunks 30 feet long, covered a 20-foot-wide area that spanned from bank to bank, according to East Palo Alto officials. The creek borders the cities of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto.
East Palo Alto Public Works Director Kamal Fallaha said he noticed the mass of debris on Sunday at about 2:30 or 3 p.m. at West Bayshore Road near U.S. Highway 101 and promptly called the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) about the situation.
Caltrans crews said the debris was being caught by metal catchers at the bridge that are designed to prevent the material from going under the freeway. The debris would otherwise catch on newly installed pillars that are part of the current flood-control construction project. The debris would be impossible to remove if it was caught under the freeway.
Police closed off West Bayshore Road near the overpass in both directions while Caltrans crews, using a backhoe scooped the mass of branches and trunks into a large, open, trailer-sized truck.
With one truck filled to capacity, crews piled a mountain of debris about 40 feet long, 15 feet wide and at least 10 feet high on the roadway until another truck could be brought on Monday.
East Palo Alto officials kept a close watch on the creek during a high tide of 6.3 feet, which peaked at 10 p.m. By 9:30 p.m., the creek had already swelled to 10 feet, just 2.8 feet below flood stage, according to the City of Palo Alto's online creek monitor.
Water did not appear to rise appreciably during the high tide, but debris continued to collect even after Caltrans crews had significantly opened the channel.
West Bayshore Road remained closed at 1 p.m. on Monday in both directions as a Caltrans crew continued to remove the debris. East Palo Alto police said there was no estimate of when the road would be reopened.
For Sunday, Jan. 8, the maximum water flow on San Francisquito Creek recorded at Stanford University was more than five times the record maximum flow from 2005 on that date, which is based on 77 years of records, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
On Jan. 9, the record flow was on target to be more than twice the old record set in 1995, according to USGS.
The storm also caused downed trees scattered power outages throughout Palo Alto on Sunday and into Monday morning. On Monday, the city's online outage map showed 858 residents affected by an outage in the Duveneck, Midtown, and Triple El neighborhood areas.
"We had a # of power outages yesterday, through the night and into this morning due to storm, wind and trees on wires," Palo Alto Utilities posted on its Facebook page Monday morning. "Crews still working hard to bring power back to all, though almost all the City has been restored."
Residents can report outages by calling 650-496-6914.
About 10,000 electric customers -- 2,022 on the Peninsula -- were without power late Sunday night across the Bay Area, a PG&E spokesman said.