Major storm slams Bay Area

March 25, 2011 12:55:47 AM PDT
A major storm pounded the Bay Area Thursday, bringing with it heavy downpours, high winds and dangerous surf.

North Bay

Heavy winds and rain in Marin County appeared to have hit San Anselmo the hardest, triggering a mudslide, causing a tree to smash into a parked car, and spilling sewage onto a street when manhole covers were raised by heavy runoff. Except for some minor flooding caused by clogged drains, downtown San Anselmo was spared any damage. The downtown area is often flooded by rising waters from San Anselmo Creek. However, the creek remained three feet below flood stage at the height of Thursday's storm.

Nancy Garza and her daughter Violet were just about to leave their Florence Avenue home and get into their car to go grocery shopping when a heritage oak tree across the street fell and smashed the car. They were not hurt, although the car appears to be a total loss. A San Anselmo arborist estimated the valley oak tree (also known as a white oak) was between 100 and 150 years old. The falling tree snagged power lines, triggering a power outage. By mid-afternoon, PG&E crews at were still in the process of replacing lines.

Up on Scenic Drive, heavy rain caused a mudslide that covered the one-lane street. Ross Valley Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Brian McCarthy said an investigation was still underway whether the slide might have involved a pipe that travels down the steep hill. One pipe on the hill belongs to the local water district. A house in the path of the slide was evacuated.

In some places in the North Bay Thursday, it rained for six straight hours. A 180 foot tall, three foot wide Douglas fir fell in Camp Meeker, taking out telephones, internet service, cable and power for 356 residents. They might not get their electricity back until Friday.

Along Redwood Highway in Windsor, power poles gave way at just the wrong place and time, draping high voltage lines over and around a large truck.

Thursday morning, the storm brought faster than 50 mph winds to Marin County. The CHP issued an advisory for empty high-profile trucks and recreational vehicles to not go across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Santa Cruz Mountains

On Glenwood Drive in Scotts Valley, a hillside gave way near Northridge Drive, just as a PG&E crew approached. And as the truck passed a driveway, the driveway slid too and collapsed.

Steve Hrdina's mother was trapped inside her house at the top of the slide for a time Thursday night. Since the driveway was so unstable, firefighters went around the problem, and cut a path through a neighbor's property to get to the trapped woman. With the ground already saturated, the concern was the house could give way too.

Thursday afternoon, about 825 Felton residents were told to evacuate after a flash flood warning was put in place for the San Lorenzo River. The river was also full of logs and other debris, creating an additional hazard. Few residents actually evacuated, but Felton fire crews made the rounds, making sure they were at least aware of what was going on. Felton Grove, Paradise Park and Gold Gulch were impacted by the flood warning and evacuation but the evacuation order did not last long. Soon after the warning went into effect, the river started to recede and the rain subsided.

Near Scotts Valley, a tree fell onto a house where a woman and her dog were inside. The woman and the dog were not injured by the 100-125 foot Douglas fir tree. The fallen tree was less than a mile from the Monday mudslide that blocked access to Nelson Road. Geologists there say the hillside is still moving.

East Bay

In Oakland, the CHP says the weather caused two cars to crash on westbound Interstate 580 near the Oakland Zoo. Clogged drains at Coolidge Avenue caused up to 2.5 feet of standing water on the freeway, forcing the CHP to shut down two lanes.

In Martinez, the storm uprooted two trees on Blum Drive that hit a fence and an apartment building.

In Fremont, a mudslide in the Niles Canyon area blocked train tracks and impacted ACE train service. A bus bridge was set up for commuters. ACE train service between Stockton and San Jose was cancelled for Friday.

San Pablo backyard collapses

Homeowners on Wyman Street in San Pablo are worried since the hillside underneath their homes is crumbling. Blanca Walker is the homeowner that suffered the most damage. The backyard of the home she's owned for seven years dropped about four feet. A San Pablo city employee checked it out, but because it's private property he said there's nothing the city can do. He did suggest evacuating the home though.

"So when I [looked] out the window, I saw all this gone. This side completely collapsed and we have a big huge crack down the hill which goes all the way to the neighbors'," said Walker. "The guy from the city stated it will be best to be safe and evacuate the house because he believes because of the rain it will collapse."

Barbara Scott lives next door. Her property is sliding too. Her gardener first noticed what was then a small crack on the hillside on Tuesday. It has grown significantly larger since then.

"It's just part of living on a hill and we've lived here since 1972, but never have we had anything like this type of movement," said Scott.

The people who live in the houses directly below are nervous. Dirt has already made its way down, a retaining wall gave way on Thursday, and so did a metal shed.

As for the Walkers, they plan to bring in engineers to give them advice, but they're worried shoring up the hillside will be too expensive to repair.

The homeowners called their insurance companies and were told it falls under floods, but unfortunately these homes are not covered for floods.

Peninsula

On the Peninsula, Highway 1 was shut down in both directions in Pacifica because of a downed wire just south of Manor Drive. The road reopened Thursday afternoon.

Thursday afternoon, there was a flash flood warning for Pescadero Creek in San Mateo County. It is set to expire at 7:30 p.m.

San Jose

Emergency crews in San Jose rescued a man who fell into the swollen Guadalupe River near Highway 87 and Interstate 880.

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