Bay Area recovers from major storm system

Tree that fell on car in Pleasanton, March 24, 2011 (Photo submitted via uReport by Molly Fourie)
March 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Bay Area is beginning to clean up from Thursday's storm as residents brace for more problems.

Capitola

The storm caused serious problems in Capitola, where a burst pipe led to flooding in dozens of businesses and homes. A major cleanup is underway, with an eye on the next storm that is already approaching.

Just 24 hours ago, Capitola Avenue held a river of water. A drainage pipe running underneath Pacific Cove Mobile Home Park collapsed.

David Drivon's home is considered ground zero.

"I had a 500 square foot deck that redwood deck that my sons and myself built and gone down in the hole," Drivon said.

The fast moving water flooded into at least two dozen homes and businesses in lower Capitola. The city owns the mobile home park where the pipe failed and says the intense storm simply overwhelmed the drainage system.

"We've had record rain in last 24 hours, 10 inches in six hours and three inches in three hours," city spokesperson Derek Johnson said.

Officials estimate costs from the flooding damage could run into the millions.

San Pablo

The big worry in Contra Costa County right now centers on a collapsing San Pablo hillside. Several homes may be at risk, including one where a patio collapsed as the hillside behind the home slid. Next to that home, neighbor Barbara Scott is afraid that if her deck goes too, so goes her home. Friday a structural engineer for the city of San Pablo examined the damage to the three homes on Wyman and then red tagged Scott's home.

Residents said they heard popping and cracking all night long. Leon Walker said his backyard shifted even more overnight, his wife's reaction when she woke up confirmed his suspicions.

"It's getting worse and lives are at stake because this hill continues to move. I'm going to have a new address. I'll be on Hillcrest rather than on Wyman Street," said Walker.

Down below on Hillcrest Street, Peter Hewitt's mother's home is in the line of fire. He spent the night here last night and listened to things sliding and breaking all night. He feels certain this hillside is soon going to completely give in.

"Since our retaining wall has been almost completely breached - there's nothing to stop this mud from overtaking our house," said Hewitt.

Residents hope the city can help them prevent more sliding.

"We've been here since 1969 - this is pretty much my family's castle," said Hewitt.

The Walkers feel overwhelmed by all this. The insurance company refused to help and the city told them yesterday this is private property -- so the city would not be helping. But today, the mayor himself stopped by to survey the damage and comfort the family.

"I was just horrified. If it was me I would be extremely upset too," said San Pablo Mayor Paul Morris. "If it were me looking at it and it was my home, I would say 'No.'" And when asked if Morris would just walk away, he said, "Yes, I would walk away."

Residents were called to a meeting at City Hall Friday afternoon, but the discussion between residents and city officials took place behind closed doors.

Santa Cruz Mountains

Late Friday night, there were still 14 roads that are shut down in the Santa Cruz Mountains because of flooding, slides, and trees down. Clean up crews were able to make some progress on Friday. This came four days after a rockslide shut down Nelson Road and cut off more than 30 families from the rest of the city. The partially dry day allowed construction crews to start building a new temporary road away from the slide.

Santa Cruz Mountain residents say mudslides and falling trees are perils they face every winter. So are power outages and blocked roads. When heavy rainfall triggered such calamities Thursday, they took events in stride. Now they are waiting to see what will befall them next. Occasional rain was still falling Friday afternoon, although the sun tried to peek through the clouds from time to time.

Scotts Valley Fire Protection District Chief Mike McMurry pulled out a dog-eared sheet of paper containing a list of all the problems his firefighters and other emergency crews encountered in the past 36 hours. In only one location is there an indication that a road crew will soon try to truck in gravel to open emergency access around a mudslide blocking Nelson Road in Scotts Valley. The property owners along Nelson Road are encouraged by the possibility. They have already endured a power outage. One resident groused about having neighbors traipsing across her property to get around the slide, although she understands the situation. The rural roads that make up much of Scotts Valley are filled with long-time inhabitants who make the best of whatever nature dishes out.

"There's a place we could get started here, go down a reasonable slope and curve into the creek and cross the creek at a place where the banks are very low and then up the other side to join the road we've been using," said resident Bob Orser.

"It gets tiresome like yesterday when you're walking through the rain and mud and it's up to your ankles and slogging home," said resident Greg Pellemeier.

Coastal Express Transportation is a local company trying to help out the community by offering free rides.

"They'll tell us they're up here behind the slide area and we'll come up and get them and take them to the grocery store or to the doctor," said Joe Donnery from Coastal Express Transportation.

Nelson Road isn't the only trouble spot. The rain has caused several hills to slide. Public works cleared two slides on Glenwood Drive late Friday. Still, emergency crews are bracing themselves for more. The fire department is trying to be pro-active rather than re-active to slides. Extra firefighters will be out this weekend, patrolling the mountains and checking on areas known to slide.

McMurry says the problems that developed in this storm were on his radar screen, but it is hard to predict where the next trouble spot will emerge. ABC7's crew spotted one potential trouble spot along Nelson Road. A large oak tree appears ready to tumble from a slope and land on the pavement, its roots mostly exposed after runoff washed away the soil. It comes with living in the mountains, residents say.

"You can never tell what else is going to come. Of course, all of Northern California is having a big problem right now. We'll just have to deal with what comes," Nelson Road resident Tom Burke said.

But it means some homes will be cut off until the rain stops, the ground dries out and the risk of more slides subsides.

In the meantime, property owners express gratitude for the help and moral support they have gotten from emergency crews and public safety agencies.

San Anselmo

The weather remained threatening, but dry through most of Friday in Marin County's Ross Valley, a welcome relief in one of California's heaviest rainfall regions.

"It takes three days of continuous rain, constant rain for it to flood like it did in 2005, San Anselmo dentist Dr. Daniel Freeman said.

But the area did not get off Scott-free, Friday, especially downstream in San Anselmo, where a manhole leaked 10,000 gallons of diluted sewage.

"A sewer overflow is never a good thing; he question is was it worse than what the treatment plant puts in the bay every day," Ross Valley Sanitary District spokesperson Brett Richards said.

At the local processing plant, general manager Jason Dow has the numbers to back it up. At Thursday's peak, close to ten times the normal amount of water flowed through the plant.

Lake County

Clear Lake has crested above flood stage for the first time in 13 years.

The lake is expected to rise slightly over the next day or so, as it collects storm runoff.

There has been some minor street flooding near the lake, but no homes are threatened.

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