First storm moves out of Bay Area, second moves in

(KGO)
March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Bay Area weather seemed to be in a lull early Wednesday evening as storm number one moved out and storm number two began to move in.

The rain has been very good news for what has been an unusually dry winter. It has touched virtually every corner of the Bay Area over the last 24 hours, but the brunt of the storm hit the East Bay Wednesday.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Late Wednesday night, the San Lorenzo River started to threaten to flood the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The river usually flows right by the boardwalk and straight into the ocean, but now it has taken a right turn, right behind the boardwalk, onto the beach area and snakes out into the ocean. Fortunately, there is a large retaining wall near the boardwalk, but where it ends large mounds of sand had to be pushed up against the retaining wall. Crews then took advantage of a large sandbar to guide the river out to the ocean.

Power Outages:

At 9:04 p.m. 2,450 customers were without power in downtown Walnut Creek for a while and at about 9:40 p.m. PG&E was able to reroute the power for all but 47 customers. There was also a transformer fire in downtown Walnut Creek affecting traffic lights.

Before 9 p.m. there were 99 customers in Lafayette without power and there was no word on what time power would be restored. There were also 54 customers in Oakland without power and power was expected to be restored by 11:30 p.m. In Woodside 54 customers are without power and power was expected to be restored by about 10 p.m.

Candy Shop Flooded

One small business owner in Orinda who sells candy for a living has been left with a sour taste in his mouth. "I just came in and couldn't help it. I just literally cried," Asif Hamid told ABC7. Rain caused a major leak to the roof of his store "Le Bonbon" destroying most of his Easter holiday inventory. "All we have is our backup stock upstairs and there's water in there, just like these candies over here," he said.

There were water-logged trays counters and boxes everywhere. The water literally poured into his store and for the longest time, all they could do was watch. It should have been a solid season for sales, but because of the water damage, Asif is instead adding up his loses. "Roughly, I'm thinking close to $100,000," he told ABC7.

He says that's because he must pre-order most of his Easter candies months in advance and now, it's too late to order more in time for the holiday.

The team hired to fix the candy store's roof says a tree and its leaves may have caused the back-up to the drains and the leak in the roof. "Usually, leaks are caused by gutter back-up," explained contractor Nick Nicholson. And, that's exactly what's believed to have been the culprit for Asif.

Although, that's a small consolation for a man who must mop up the pieces and start over again.

North Bay

In Sonoma County, the rain has let up for now, but not the cleanup, especially along the Russian River in Monte Rio.

It was a rude awakening for a wooded neighborhood in Monte Rio on Moscow Road. One house there has been there since 1908 and the redwoods around it have been there even longer, but on Tuesday night, a large bay tree gave way on the hill above. When it fell, it took out three of the redwoods. All of them fell on the house, crashing through the roof. One tree splintered so hard it impaled itself in the ground. It happened around 9 p.m. Luckily, the owner Mike Fauss was not home yet. If he had been upstairs in bed, he says he might not have survived.

"I got here about two hours after and luckily I wasn't because the whole back bedroom area's got spiked branches coming through the ceiling. Yeah, it probably would have skewered me," Fauss said.

"It was a noise like I never heard before. I haven't been that freaked out since the rockets were hitting Saigon one night. It's been that long since I was so freaked out," said neighbor Marcus Levie.

The good news is that Fauss does have insurance on his house and no other homes were damaged.

Flood waters caused problems for drivers on Highway 12 where some chose, against Caltrans recommendations, to drive through the water. The alternative was sitting in a lot of traffic. Locals say this happens every year and said Wednesday morning was nothing compared to what happened more than a decade ago. "It flooded all the way into the city proper of Sonoma, to the point where Broadway, which is the main drag, was completely flooded on both sides. I don't know why they haven't figured that out yet," one man said.

Caltrans had trucks parked at all roads leading to the flooded intersection of Highway 12 and Highway 121. The detour is 8th Street to Napa Road. As of Wednesday afternoon, it did not look like the water would be receding anytime soon.

Firefighters removed a downed tree from East Laverne Avenue in Mill Valley this morning. It also appears the tree knocked out a utility wire, but there is no word of any widespread power outages

Downed Trees

One Golden Gate Heights man's backyard looks a lot different than it did Tuesday night after his stately tree tipped over in the rain. On Sloat Boulevard, an 80-foot Monterey pine tree fell over and blocked traffic lanes until crews came to remove it and a damaged one nearby. It happened in the same spot where a century-old tree toppled over on Tuesday.

Across the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, firefighters tackled a small tree that fell across East Laverne Avenue. It hit a utility line but fortunately, no widespread outage occurred. That is a scenario PG&E has been trying to avoid. Crews could be seen trimming trees Wednesday. The utility says they spend $168 million a year on this kind of maintenance trying to get ahead of big storms and prevent power outages. "We trim every year in Northern and Central California over 1.2 million trees. Keep them out of power lines and transmission lines, and we do it rain or shine," said.

In the East Bay, a tree fell down right across the eastbound I-580 onramp in Oakland at Coolidge Avenue overnight, blocking all lanes. It took a few chainsaws and a wood chipper, but crews were able to get it cleared out of the way before the morning commute.

Sierra

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, chains were not required on I-80 at Donner Summit where the falling snow had turned to rain, but in the higher elevations of the Sierra, the storm dropped tons of new snow much to the delight of ski resorts and businesses there.

In the Serene Lakes subdivision near Soda Springs, plows could be seen out in force, trying to widen the road and clear the driveways of homes that have not seen this much new snow all winter. At Boreal Ski Area, just a handful of snowboarders and skiers braved the weather to try out the new snow. "You know, there's quite a bit of powder on the ground, so it's a little tough to get through, but still fun," Noel Knell said, describing the snow as somewhere in between "wet and heavy" and "light and fluffy."

Getting to the mountains was pretty easy for most of the day since it was raining on I-80 almost all the way up, except at the very top of Donner Summit. "We had a power line drop across the freeway blocking eastbound and westbound at Rainbow. We had PG&E come out. They took care of it, removed it, and we were able to get traffic flowing," CHP Sgt. Curtis Fouyer said.

The storm has helped increase the Sierra snowpack a little bit. The Central Sierra, which includes Tahoe, is now at 32 percent of normal for this time of year. That still sounds pretty dismal, but it was below 30 percent on Tuesday. Statewide, Sierra snow is just 34 percent of average.

Santa Cruz Mountains

It was just a matter of time before the persistent rain triggered slides and that is exactly what happened on Highway 17 toward the end of the morning commute. A mudslide blocked one of the two northbound lanes choking off vehicles heading toward San Jose. Caltrans crews moved quickly to remove a fallen tree and scrape the mud to the narrow shoulder. It was an early sign that two days of rain are starting to saturate and destabilize the soil.

In what could be considered another warning sign, a rockslide partially blocked Empire Grade Road in Bonny Doon. No one was injured and no vehicles were damaged as the sedimentary rock came crashing down an embankment. At higher elevations of about 2,200 feet, runoff is significant with the speed of the torrents creating quite a spectacle, but the rushing waters eventually make their way downhill to communities like Boulder Creek where residents are waiting. "We see runoff in the gutters from that kind of thing, but nothing too major yet," resident Todd Landis said.

Everyone in the area acknowledges that it has been a dry winter and that the soil should be capable of absorbing two days of rain. "Where we are at, water starts puddling up and not draining off, and so you can kind of tell when saturation levels have been hit," Estrella Bibbey told ABC7.

Nature has a way of taking shortcuts, jumping out of culverts and finding faster paths to the lowlands. And, when the ground reaches its breaking point, mudslides and rock slides are triggered.

Mountain people say they'll take it in stride. "No big concerns. We've dealt with storms here before and we'll deal with them again," one man told ABC7. Residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains will be put to the test as the rain continues to fall.

Air Travel

Passengers flying out of San Francisco International are encouraged to call ahead to check on their flights. Rain and wind delayed flights by as much as three hours Wednesday morning. No major delays were reported in Oakland or San Jose.

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ABC7's Nick Smith, David Louie, Wayne Freedman, Laura Anthony, and Carolyn Tyler contributed to this story.


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