Heavy winds damage infrastructure, schools, neighborhoods


As Palo Alto continues to struggle through a storm that began Monday night, neighborhoods throughout the city, including scenes on Emerson Street, are suffering from the damage of fallen trees and powerlines caused by the storm. Students across the Palo Alto High School campus, including junior Rori Escudero, faced a power outage as a result of the harsh storm, forcing many classrooms to adapt to their new environment without Internet and light. “I was in AP Lang and we [Escudero’s class] had to change our plans because of the power outage,” Escudero said. “We have hand sanitizer on every table so we put our flashlights under the hand sanitizer for light.” (Photo: Kristine Lin)

Payton Anderson, Senior Staff Writer

Additional reporting by Leena Hussein, Maxwell Zhang, Kristine Lin, Anna Feng, Shreyas Shashi, Christopher Choi, Avi Srinivasan, Sophia Yang, Benjamin Grimes and Daniel Garepis-Holland

The Palo Alto community continues to suffer from the aftermath of toppled trees and damaged power lines after high winds tore through the city this afternoon.

The storm interrupted classes at Palo Alto and Henry M. Gunn high schools and closed off several busy streets, including Embarcadero Road and Westbound Oregon Expressway. Downed power lines and trees also caused severe traffic jams and car accidents throughout the area.

Voice reporter Evan Chien saw a tree crush two cars while he was riding home from school. Later, Voice reporter Shreyas Shashi watched as workers removed a 30-foot fallen oak from Seale Park. 

In addition to small branches scattered throughout Palo Alto High School, a tree collapsed on campus at the cross-section of El Camino and Embarcadero Road. At Gunn, a student was hit by a piece of debris from a part of the roof, causing a school-wide lock down according to Gunn senior Henry Tian. 

Embarcadero Road closes this afternoon as a result of fallen trees and broken power lines amid the chaos of a local storm. (Photo: Kristine Lin)

According to Paly sophomore Lea Kwan, a second tree was taped off in front of the Performing Arts Center due to large branches falling from it. Paly administrators were present and urged students to avoid close proximity to the tree.

During today’s 3rd and 4th period classes, students and staff were left in the dark as classwork and lesson plans were interrupted. 

At the start of the outage, assistant principals Jerry Berkson, LaDonna Butler, Erik Olah and Michelle Steingart advised students and staff to remain inside until further notice to avoid injury from falling debris. 

Two Palo Alto utility workers repair fallen shingles from the roofs of the 500s and 700s buildings this afternoon at Palo Alto High School. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

The power was restored in the earlier half of 4th period. 

According to sophomore Claire Shi, her 3rd period physics class was unable to finish the lecture as a result of both a loss of Internet and light in the classroom. 

“We [Shi’s class] had to delay the class a bit later because my teacher does use slides to teach,” Shi said. “We had to continue using flashlights and whiteboards.” 

Other hands-on learning courses such as band found ways to adapt to the loss of power. Junior trumpeter Lorenzo Lisi said he and his classmates also had to make their own light. 

“We used the flashlights on our phones to illuminate the music so that we could read it,” Lisi said. “It wasn’t too much of a hassle because we had some backlighting from the windows, so we were able to play our music.”

Students in physical education did not face as much difficulty. According to sophomore Nicholas Feitzinger, other than needing to use phone flashlights to enter their locker combinations, his class was mostly unaffected. 

As a result of the risk of fallen debris this afternoon, two Palo Alto High School custodians section off the area between the 800s and 700s buildings with caution tape to prevent students from using the pathway. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

“I was in the [weight room] so the class wasn’t reliant on anything electrical,” Feitzinger said. “Enough light came through the windows so it was business as usual.”

The power outage forced some teachers to change their lesson plans, including English teacher Lindsay Cohen. 

“My slides were all done through Google, so my slides didn’t work, my projector didn’t work,” Cohen said. “We [the class] ended up having to read in the dark. … Everybody had their flashlights on because when we kept our door open, the wind was so severe you couldn’t hear.”

The blackout was surprising for Cohen, who said she is now more prepared for future similar events.  

“It didn’t even cross my mind that it [a power outage] was a possibility,” Cohen said. “So next time I see wind, I will be downloading everything. I did have an admin come by to tell me that the power was out, which was apparent, but I think it was nice that they checked in.” 

Despite losing power for a short time and experiencing some minor damage to her home, junior Rori Escudero said she was able to reconnect online and finish her assignments. 

“A branch fell on my house, but I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to get any schoolwork done without internet,” Escudero said. “It was great that the power went back.”

The latest power outage updates can be found here.