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Palo Alto: Flood likely as Pope-Chaucer bridge nears capacity

Original post made on Dec 31, 2022

The Pope-Chaucer bridge, which spans the San Francisquito Creek between Palo Alto and Menlo Park was on the verge of flooding Saturday morning, city officials warned.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, December 31, 2022, 11:00 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2022 at 11:09 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

There should be a "Local Emergency" category. And there should be a red banner on the front page whenever one occurs. The rain does not plan to stop soon. If you need to bug out, check caltrans website for safe areas to travel to. Call the caltran road number at 1-800-427-7623 . Or check their website for road information that has maps that show dangerous roads. Web Link

Posted by Bayes
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2022 at 11:27 am

Bayes is a registered user.

The creek camera is actually W. Bayshore.

Hope everyone is staying safe.

Posted by ReallyLiveHere
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 31, 2022 at 11:34 am

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This map shows what areas are at risk of flooding (and to what depth) if the banks are overtopped

Web Link

Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Dec 31, 2022 at 11:39 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Thanks, @Bayes. Sorry for the caption error.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 31, 2022 at 11:54 am

Online Name is a registered user.

People on the Crescent Park Neighborhood Assn who were monitoring the creek posted warnings and photos long before the city sent out warnings.

Posted by Lynne Henderson
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 31, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Lynne Henderson is a registered user.

Thank you Weekly for the notice. I guess there's no emergency connection for flooding?

As a Palo Alto resident for 40 years, give or take, why am I not surprised that the Chaucer (who knew it was Pope-Chaucer?) bridge hasn't been fixed since the last disaster in 1998--although droughts may have made it easy to ignore. And the multi-jurisdiction issue probably made it harder to fix.

I just hope everyone can stay safe and dry --though I fear for the unhoused.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 31, 2022 at 1:33 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Myfeelz exactly right, again ! 9am this morning. Very dangerous conditions driving at this section of ECR, flash flooding ! And zero emergency service in sight. None. I was getting to work this morning in RWC. This "alert" story did not highlight that Palo Alto Avenue, ECR at El Camino Ball field/Soccer field and Stanford Shopping center at ECR was dangerously inundated with flood waters on all sides and corners. That ECR roadway was actually crumbling as traffic barreled through the water on ECR and Sand Hill Road. Not flashing lights, no sandbags holding the water back, no Stanford police, no PA police, no emergency vehicles or Cal Trans workers. Just crumbled ECR roadway with dips with loose gravel, rocks, tons of water and vehicles splashing there way through New Years Eve morning commute. Such is that the powers that be the joint powers listed in this article were absent and taking the day off from the atmospheric river weather warnings all over the news for days. So much passive aggressive local, state and 2 county infighting and broken partnerships and no communication between the joint group that it's a water logged broken infrastructure of nothing ever gets done. I was quite shocked. If I had not been late for work and driving cautiously, I would have taken a photo. My second thought: would uber rich shoppers be able to purchase there Gucci belts, bags, bangles today? It looks like downtown Oroville in Feb 2017. Also the article did not warn families to keep children away from the rising creek or anywhere near the floods -- anyone could get swept away. Dumb. A childhood friend at 3 years of age drowned during a rain break, in a very high, fast moving Anselmo Creek when reaching for his ball. Waterways like these fill in minutes, not hours. I have never gotten over his death. This rising water, is a flash flood within a creek bed and the area should be avoided. Seriously Genedy you can do better.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2022 at 1:47 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Native, be careful out there.

On the CalTrans website Web Link , under Quick Map Options, click on the "road conditions" tab and click ALL of the boxes. If it doesn't immediate change the view, refresh with those boxes checked. It doesn't show much but it does show where NOT to head if you are trying to leave the area. If you want specific local info, the City updated their website a couple of hours ago. Flood is a quickly evolving situation, but this will give a basic rundown of what it was like 2 hours ago: Web Link That's the city of PA.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2022 at 2:07 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

This caltrans also has cameras in many locations. If it's just a red camera with a "minus" sign on it, it only shows a photo taken within the last couple of minutes. If it has a full running webam, it's a red sign with a plus sign. Click it to open, and then click in the lower left corner to go live.

Web Link

Posted by mickie winkler
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 31, 2022 at 2:22 pm

mickie winkler is a registered user.

Here's the link you need showing water levels at all the bridges.
Web Link
For more than a decade bridge replacement at Chaucer has been debated and debated. Prefab bridges should be considered for speed of replacement, lack of impact time, low cost and even good looks.

Posted by Chris C.
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2022 at 2:45 pm

Chris C. is a registered user.

I took a bunch of photos and videos of both the Newell and Chaucer bridge as it was approaching flooding: Web Link

(There are also some pics of Duveneck in there, where the flooding got right up to the front door of the main office.)

When I was there the water escaped the banks of the creek and started going up the street not at the Chaucer bridge, but at the water pumping station about 200' upstream of the bridge. I've got photos of the flow just starting in that album. Dunno if it spilled over at other locations too, as I got out of there when that started happening.

I'm curious if any of the flows went over into the Menlo Park or East Palo Alto side -- are our neighbours doing okay?

Posted by StephenM
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2022 at 3:10 pm

StephenM is a registered user.

Chris C: Great photos! Thanks.

Posted by Brian1
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Brian1 is a registered user.

Many Years ago they used to take bulldozers down into the Creek and clean out the small trees and shrubs and other things that were growing down there that would impede the water flow. They stopped doing that and now there are large trees growing in the creek that act to slow the water down and debris catches on them forming small dams backing up the water to the point where it's floodng over the sides.

Also at the Pope/Chaucer bridge when the water would get that high they would be pulling the debris out so it didn't block the water. I swung by a couple of times this morning and they were just letting the debris pile up more and more including a refrigerator and many large tree branches and tree trunks . It just seemed to be making the problem worse. I'm curious why Palo Alto and Menlo Park crews weren't out there at the 1st sign to trouble taking care of that?

Posted by Is It Worth Walking Down
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Dec 31, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Is It Worth Walking Down is a registered user.

25 years ago the Chaucer Street bridge was clearly identified as a major cause of San Francisquito Creek jumping it's banks and doing millions of dollars of damage to properties in Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

It is unconscionable and a complete failure of government that this bridge has yet to be replaced.

You guys had ONE job...

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2022 at 4:44 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

According to city staff ghe monitor at Opie Chaucer is broken

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 31, 2022 at 4:55 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

At least Menlo Park has its act together and has sent me 2 alerts that they've closed down Middlefield near Willow and just now Marsh Road.

Good for them, especially since I never subscribed to their list.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 31, 2022 at 8:19 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The Anderson Dam was closed by the federal government due to possibe earthquake issues - so they say. One wonders what is happening in Morgan Hill right now and what the run-off is into San Jose.

We have a dam that is over 100 years old at the top of the SF Creek that has been discussed forever. We are dealing with issues at the bottom of that problem dam but are unclear on what is happening at the top of the problem dam on SU property.

We need an article on the whole creek from top to bottom to clarify where we need to fix problems. Any one who has hiked the dish from the backside can see trees in the resulting creek. Can the city and SU please coordinate some upgrades from top to bottom. This seems to be another example where everyone is deferring to FEMA or some other insurance company to pay for the clean up here.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 31, 2022 at 8:30 pm

mjh is a registered user.

For better or worse, besides Palo Alto and Menlo Park, management of the creek is shared by and comes under the jurisdiction of several other regional/state authorities which has made for a tortured history of flood management.

One intractable problem has been that a dam was built across the upper creek on Stanford land (Jasper Ridge) causing what was a historical flood plain behind the dam to gradually silt up and no longer function as an area that could absorb much of the water flooding down the creek from the mountains during heavy rains. As a result, this now causes much worse periodic flooding downstream in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto.

After the creek’s last really serious flooding some twenty years ago, my understanding was that Stanford was required to remove the dam and restore the upstream flood plain. Which would make a big difference in protecting downstream Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto, from flooding.

However, my understanding also is that over the last twenty plus years Stanford has been dragging its feet in complying. Though I think they finally built the fish ladder by the dam to allow trout to travel upstream to their historical spawning areas once again. If anyone has more accurate information please correct me.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 31, 2022 at 8:43 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Stanford also had a dam in Stanford Weekend Acres (Menlo Park) tin the back of a friend's property. She -- a Stanford alum -- fought with them for years to get it removed and ended up suing them for anong oither things damage to her property,

When they finally removed it, they did something outrageous like bill claim their payment was something like rental income which shoowed up on her taxes on which she had to pay penalties and then sue them again.

The whole nonsense with the dam went on for at least 10 years and she vowed to never show up at another reunion if that's how Stanford treated its alims.

Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 1, 2023 at 4:58 am

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

Absolutely not true that the Searsville dam somehow compromised any former floodplain. The floodplain is and for thousands of years has been downstream of the dam location.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2023 at 8:04 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Online Name, I can't help but wonder if Stanford's recently published dirty words list is a pre-emptive strike against people like your friend. I haven't figured it out yet but it could go something like this. A complaint of any kind gets lodged against them. Let's say the complaint contains 3 of their recently-judged to be offensive words. The words could be innocuous, within the context. But Stanford could cross complain by saying they are using dirty words against us and we compel the court to order them to cease and desist and dismiss their claim. Then POOF. Complaint goes away. It would still work even though they apologized for making "American" a dirty word. They didn't apologize for publishing. It should be branded, and trademarked "Complaint Be Gone". The words would have to become known to everyone in the world, and what better way to get free advertising than feeding it to every aggregator known to mankind? I am curious, did your friend ever recover her losses from the fiasco?

Posted by Jerry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 1, 2023 at 9:46 am

Jerry is a registered user.

I'll withhold my usual biting sarcasm for now but it suffices to say that nothing was learned from the 1998 floods.

I remember St. Francis Drive being covered in 2-3 feet of water because the storm drains on Embarcadero were not cleaned out prior to that storm. The Embarcadero underpass at Alma is a death waiting to happen.

More rain is expected on Wednesday and Thursday. Hopefully city crews are out today trying to shore things up. Yes, it's a force majeure but more can be done than providing a pile of sand and burlap bags to residents.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 1, 2023 at 9:47 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Norman Beamer, I wasn't suggesting a relationship between that and the recent flooding at Stanford Weekend Acres as depicted in videos on NextDoor and elsewhere.

@MyFeelz, hah!! You may be right, especially since one of the their dirty words was "landlord" and since there's been speculation about whether the NewsSpeak correct usage is now LandPerson, LandPeer or LandKomrade you're surely right.

They must have heard my friend's reaction when I called to read her Stabnford's incredibly arrogant quote about the Redwood City residents who had the temerity to sue Stanford to stop their 24/7 construction that had long been interfering with their sleep.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2023 at 10:37 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@MyFeelz. The most pathetic part. City of PA is critically underprepared, under-qualified for emergency management, over paid and cresting from the weight of its own ineptitude .

Posted by Julian Gómez
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2023 at 1:12 pm

Julian Gómez is a registered user.

@Native to the BAY
The city will hire a consultant to study your statement.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 1, 2023 at 1:31 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Native to the BAY
The city will hire a consultant to study your statement."

Hah! And that consultant -- like all other city consultants WE pay for -- will produce a wide-margin report explaining how wrong you are and then hire another consultant to produce a 3-D model to prove it.

Then residents will be forced to hire their / our own consultants to show that the 3-D model was based on surveys conducted at 3AM.

Stay tuned for the task forces and citizen advisory committees which will meet at approved hotels for which ..

"The City has established a process to offer three nights of hotel accommodations at select hotels for those who we confirm have been displaced from their homes as a result of flooding. Please use the same email above to request accommodations."

Lather, rinse, repeat. SO glad we passed both the business tax and the utility tranfer tax giving them the right to keep "overcharging" us while raising our rates and paying themselves $400K salaries.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2023 at 1:52 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The CC directs City Staff, City Staff pays consultants to answer to its citizenry for the most basic of responsibilities.

Where was our public city emergency preparedness communication warnings for residents prior to this storm, flash flood ? A: Mr. Mayor. Let me ask our consultants and I'll have to get back to you on that -- Were their even enough sand at the stations, were there even bags? Was Mayor Burt out there helping fill bags of sand for distress buisness' and residents ? He poses for pictures holding a shovel, yet can't use one to help his city stay safe.

Still livid about Shikada placing a curfew on top of a COVID curfew in May of 2020 during Black Lives Matter protests in the City.

Consultants are the liable intermediaries between highest paid city managers and sitting CC. Yet. What's our recourse as citizens?

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2023 at 4:39 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Online Name I was writing almost an identical post to your tongue in cheek recital of how our local politics works (or doesn't work, as the case may be). Then got called away by a friend in Tahoe who says it is really a sheet show and I'm so glad we got rain instead of snow, but the snow is going to come in the form of early thaw. So, perhaps we need to get a consultant to conduct an emergency study as to where to put all of the water.

@Native, I think in most places the natural recourse is the voting machine. But, in this case, when so many of the positions are merely musical chairs, people can be "selected" if they don't get "elected". All it takes is one little s to change the whole picture on the box of puzzle pieces. Then we wait until the vote comes around again and as Online Name pointed out, "lather, rinse, repeat". Meanwhile the patience bleeds out. The CC answers mostly to the SU wearing the red clown suit -- the impenetrable, indefatigable, immense great and powerful Oz. Oh. Hm. Wrong movie. I know you know what I mean! I had such high hopes for turning over a new leaf with the new year, but yesterday's lack of information was like ... would I rather try to find out if I'm going to get flooded, or soak black-eyed peas?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 1, 2023 at 5:26 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

" So, perhaps we need to get a consultant to conduct an emergency study as to where to put all of the water."

And where there's can find sand for the sandbags since there might be more storms coming.

Seriously, high praise for Vice Mayor Kou and her husband who were out filling empty sandbags, checking on people. surveying which stations had sands and sandbags, which sandbag stations kept running out and -- most important -- talking to people to learn that the city's web site doesn't even tell people they have to bring their own shovels.

"The Hopkins sandbag station kept running out of pre-filled sandbags, but it also did not have bags and sand. The city website does not update on the status of these sandbag stations, provide alternatives and does not let people know that they will have to bring their own shovels to fill the sandbags. There's another storm expected Jan. 4-5th."

Thanks, Vice Mayor Kou for realizing those pesky details mattter.

By the way, still waiting to hear from our City ananager, Utility director etc.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 1, 2023 at 7:07 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Based on media and resident reports, it appears Palo Alto did not heed the lessons learned from the 1998 flood and was not adequately prepared for this storm. I am glad that there were two members of Council, Vice Mayor Kou and Mayor Burt, out there in "boots on the ground" mode b/c they can provide first hand reports of what they saw. Hopefully they will insist on more preventive work, starting immediately, so that the front line workers who go out during and after storms can focus on the problems that could not be anticipated.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2023 at 5:49 pm

mjh is a registered user.

While our mayor, Pat Burt, and vice mayor, Lydia Kou, are actively involved providing a visible leadership role, has our city manager, Ed Shikado, also been seen actively involved in a “boots on theground” leadership role?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 2, 2023 at 5:59 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@mjh, excellent question. I'm also wondering about his huge costly ($3M=) Cmmunications Team that's not providing current and useful information that people need during disasters like this.

Maybe they need some training in "crisis communications" other than stonewalling -- something Diana Diamond and other media figures complained about literally for years.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2023 at 7:49 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I would suggest we need a dedicated "emergency contact" page on the website, or perhaps an Emergency Palo Alto Facebook group where we can report issues, comment on how things are progressing, or offer help in an emergency.

Nextdoor has been matching people who need sandbags with people willing to fill sandbags. Many people didn't know that they needed to bring their own shovels. Some needed help with flooded homes and others had wet vacs and offered to help. Some have shown pictures of dangerous trees or almost flooding.

It is good that Nextdoor is providing a service, but couldn't the City monitor these groups or set up a similar chat service in times of emergency?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2023 at 1:24 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The City top earners gave themselves a 12% pay raise on December 19. Then fled the Hall for their Holiday along with the private consultants and creek monitors . The rest of us residents, left to sink or swim during a flood event which had a much pre-publicized storm warning, days prior to Dec 31st storm.

Not enough city owned shovels or sand or bags to distribute for emergency preparedness ? It's like a TP and hand sanitizer shortage of March 2020 we dramatically faced. Maybe time dig out the City stock of "golden" shovels needed more for actual an life threatening emergency uses than for cliche' photo ops with Mayor Burt and the like.

Wait. Post Bomb Cyclone: The City Manager office will whine that the city trucks are out of service fuel or don't have access to a reliable electric grid needed for the EV chargers for city owned hybrid emergency service fleet to be out physically monitoring the storm rather than hiding behind a computer interface.

FYI : Without proof of residency, the traditionally unhoused are not allowed to get sandbags to place around their bedrolls, tents or cardboard mattress so as not to drown. Shameless !

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