Bay Area prepares for heavy weekend rains

December 11, 2009 11:55:22 PM PST
A taste of the big storm that's on the way smacked the Bay Area on Friday and much more rain is on the way.

People are getting ready for this rough weather as best they can. Folsom and 17th Streets in San Francisco is one of the city's most low-lying areas. You would never expect it used to be a creek bed. Recently, the area was flooded after a sudden downpour.

This time, restaurant owner Thomas Lackey is prepared for the weather. On Friday, his Stable Cafe Kitchen is humming with customers. Lackey remembers the disaster that occurred recently.

On October 19, 2009 a rainstorm shut them down when an extraordinary .7 inches of rain fell in the space of about 20 minutes. The Folsom Street flooding was a mix of rainwater and sewage from overwhelmed pipes.

"We were at two and a half feet in five minutes," said Thomas. He is just hoping they don't see the same amount of rainfall in such a short period of time.

The San Francisco PUC is in full storm prep mode. Crews were inspecting and cleaning out chronically clogged drains, crews are also on standby for the weekend, and the North Point Treatment Facility has been activated -- that is something that happens only when the chance of rain gets to 30 percent.

"Anywhere from 28,000 to 38,000 of these [drains]. So that's a lot of them. We might miss one or two, three or four or five. We're not perfect, but we aim to please you know," said Efren Campos, a SFPUC truck driver.

SFPUC assistant general manager Tommy Moala says often the pipe is clear, but the drain surface is blocked with debris. It doesn't take much to create a problem.

"One plastic bag can actually plug a catch basin," said Moala.

People in San Francisco were picking up sandbags offered by the SFPUC at the 2323 Cesar Chavez facility. Santa Clara County is offering them as well. The water district says it works hard to do preventative maintenance on its drains between June and October. A big storm would be welcome in that county, now in its third year of drought.

"Half of our water is imported water from the Seirra snowpack. We learned last week that that allocation may be as low as five percent, so any water that we can capture here locally and store, is going to be good for our overall water supply," said Susan Siravo from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The SFPUC is asking for the public's help in keeping the water off the streets. If you see a bag blocking a drain, the PUC says just pick up a broom if you wouldn't mind, and toss that bag onto the sidewalk, so the drains can keep the water flowing.

If you have any flooding problems, they are asking that you call 311. They have a system there where they are tracking calls and make sure they have all been followed up.


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