As Mary Brayton filled sandbags on Wednesday morning to protect her Chaucer Street home against the approaching storm, she was brought right back to the winter of 1998.
In early February of that year, the San Francisquito Creek overflowed so severely that more than 1,000 houses flooded and 500 people were forced to evacuate. Brayton has lived in her home near the creek for four decades and remembers waking up in the middle of the night nearly a quarter century ago to an emergency alarm going off. At first when she looked outside, she didn't realize what was happening.
"I didn't think there was a flood. You know why? The water was running so fast down Chaucer Street that I thought it was the road," Brayton said.
Her house ended up making it through the 1998 flood OK, although her neighbors on the other side of the street weren't so lucky. This time around, Brayton didn't want to take any chances.
She came out to a city-run sandbag station at the corner of Palo Alto Avenue and Chaucer Street on Wednesday morning to fill some canvas sacks, which she planned to use to protect the vents leading into her crawl space, as well as to place them across her driveway.
An incoming storm is expected to bring heavy rain and high winds from Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 4, through early Thursday morning, Jan. 5, the National Weather Service has warned. Much of the precipitation may arrive after dark.
It comes on the back of the New Year's Eve storm less than a week ago that overflowed San Francisquito Creek in multiple locations. According to Brayton, her neighbors across the street experienced flooding during this past weekend's storm.
Officials encouraged people to prepare before the heaviest rains hit Wednesday afternoon, urging those in areas at risk of flooding to take measures to safeguard their homes.
The city of Palo Alto has opened four free sandbag filling stations located at the corner of Palo Alto Avenue and Chaucer Street; the Rinconada Tennis Courts at the corner of Newell Road and Hopkins Avenue; Mitchell Park at 600 E. Meadow Drive; and the Palo Alto Airport Terminal at 1925 Embarcadero Road.
Cristian Resendiz was among those who came to the Chaucer Street sandbag station on Wednesday morning, filling bags to use to protect his apartment on Newell Road in East Palo Alto, which sits near the creek. Resendiz particularly wanted to prevent water from inundating his backyard, where he stores the equipment that he uses to paint houses, including pressure washing machines.
"We'll see how it goes," Resendiz said. "We're doing the best we can."
Resendiz was a child during the 1998 flood and remembers the parking lot underneath his family's apartment flooding, submerging cars under water.
This past weekend, Resendiz said that he avoided flooding, but it seemed like a close call as he watched the creek rise.
"It was a scary moment for everybody because the water was really high," Resendiz said.
As Brayton filled sandbags and watched a crew of workers on the Pope-Chaucer Bridge clear debris on Wednesday morning, she said that it seemed to her like officials were doing a better job preparing for this storm, compared to the one this past weekend. She had been upset at how much debris was clogging the creek when the storm hit on Saturday, but said that she was pleased with the preparations ahead of Wednesday's wet weather.
"Everything seems better to me than it was, thank God," Brayton said.
Beyond the sandbag stations, the city has a Community Resource Center open at Rinconada Library's Embarcadero Room to provide a warm and dry space for residents to stay overnight and through at least 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Palo Alto residents can report flood damage using a form at cityofpaloalto.org/reportstormdamage
For more information about the storm, visit Palo Alto Online throughout the coming days for updates. The city is also providing storm information on its website.