Heavy rain brings flooding; new storms pending

Anna Feng, Senior Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Jan. 2 at 4:42 p.m. to include additional information about sandbag locations. 

Residents along the San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park are drying out – but nervously watching the weather forecast – after heavy rain yesterday caused a flood that breached the bank of Pope-Chaucer Bridge. 

A sustained deluge Friday and Saturday night led water in the creek to rise, causing flooding at the intersection of Pope Street and Chaucer Street in the late morning resulting in street flooding and closures around the area. 

Water floods a street Saturday in Crescent Park, inundating sidewalks and driveways. The flood was a result of excessive rainfall causing an overflow of the San Francisquito Creek, affecting Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. According to Crescent Park resident Varonica Reynolds, with more rain expected in the coming days, she is worried about the potential of more flooding hitting her neighborhood. “I think it’s going to rain for the next three days, so I’m concerned,” Reynolds said. (Photo: Anna Feng)

According to a city announcement released at 12:30 p.m. today, water levels have receded at San Francisquito Creek with a low chance of flooding. The announcement encourages residents to remain alert as the National Weather Service predicts a larger storm to hit the area Wednesday and Thursday. 

According to Crescent Park resident Varonica Reynolds, the water on her street rose above the sidewalk and onto her driveway. 

“We got sandbags and we tried to do the drainage of the street,” Reynolds said. “At least it didn’t come inside the house, that was what I was most concerned about.”

Tzafi Hamou, another Crescent Park resident, said she had to park her car horizontally along her driveway to avoid having water flood her car. Hamou said the flooding on Saturday was similar to the flood of the San Francisquito Creek in 1998. 

“It [the 1998 flood] was kind of like what we have now, nobody was prepared, they didn’t alert us,” Hamou said. “This time it was 30 minutes before and they called and said that there was going to be a flood near the Chaucer Bridge, but when I looked out, I saw the water all the way up to [the sidewalk]. It appears that from what I see from the neighborhood network emails, a lot of people didn’t even get the warnings, so people are very upset that in 24 years nothing has changed.”

The 1998 flood damaged more than 1,000 homes in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park with firefighters having to use boats and school buses to rescue individuals trapped inside homes. 

Residents fill sandbags Monday at the Rinconada Tennis Courts in preparation for the Wednesday storm, which is forecasted to be more severe than the one that hit the area over the weekend. (Photo: Anna Feng)

The bridges at Pope-Chaucer Street and Middlefield Road have a history of flooding. In 1998, debris became clogged under the bridges causing water to back up and spill into the streets. Following the flood, a lawsuit led by a group of Crescent Park residents argued that the city was aware that the bridges could worsen flooding.

Although some measures were put in place following the 1998 floods, including sensors and a webpage to monitor creek levels, Hamou said not enough has been done to address the flooding. 

“It’s a big hassle and it’s really devastating for the neighborhood,” Hamou said. “A lot of people are upset that nothing was done.”

According to Palo Alto Police Department’s Nixle Emergency Alerts, forecasts predict a break in rainfall in the coming days followed by additional rain that is predicted to be heavier than what was experienced on Friday and Saturday night.

Residents are encouraged to pick up sandbags at one of the following locations: Palo Alto Airport, 1925 Embarcadero Road; Rinconada Tennis Courts, corner of Newell Road and Hopkins Avenue; and at Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive.