Bay Area deals with flooding, damage after storm

Last month, Marin's water supply was pretty grim, but with the recent storm, the situation is improving.
February 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Heavy rains pounded the Bay Area on Friday. And though it is rain that we desperately need, the storms created a lot of problems.

The worst and wettest spot in Marin County was the Manzanita Park & Ride at the Highway 101 Stinson Beach exit in Mill Valley.

"Now I know why people buy SUVs," Greenbrae resident Alan Ellis said.

Ellis told us that by the time he learned the water was too deep it was too late -- his car got stuck in the middle of the flooded intersection

It happens there often, especially during high tides.

Copper wire theft causes flooding in the South Bay

A flooded freeway underpass made a mess of Friday morning's commute in the South Bay. ABC7 has learned that that flooding was the result of a criminal act.

Caltrans workers used giant hoses hooked up to big portable pumps to drain the veritable lake of rainwater that closed down Highway 87.

It wasn't aging equipment or Mother Nature to blame for the mess. Instead, officials say it was common criminals looking to make a buck.

"The copper wire thieves struck at about 4 a.m. and they stole about 4,000 feet worth of wire," Caltrans spokesperson Bob Haus said.

It's the very wire that powers the pumps that drain that underpass every time it rains. The pumps are in windowless concrete buildings, atop a steep ridge, down a private road, with a locked gate. But that didn't stop the thieves.

"In the last five years the price of copper wire has increased 350 percent," Haus said. "So it's become very valuable. And that's why thieves are going to any and all lengths to steal it, because there's a lot of money to be made."

And money to be lost. Caltrans estimates that in 2012 it spent $50 million in taxpayer dollars repairing damage done by copper wire thieves.

"Metering lights, irrigation systems, anything that requires electricity is going to be vulnerable to copper wire theft," Haus said.

Caltrans says it's working with police and is fortifying its infrastructure, though Haus didn't want to give specifics.

Crews deal with storm damage in the East Bay

PG&E crews were dispatched across the East Bay Friday to repair lines that were pulled down by trees during the storm.

In Danville, a crew cleared out a large oak that fell during the hard rain and wind early in the morning.

Another crew made quick work of a tree that fell across the road leading to the Eugene O'Neill Tao House. The road was impassable all morning

"Unfortunately I had a group re-schedule this morning," said Tad Shay with the National Park Service. "Or maybe it was fortunate for them, because the tree came down when they would have been up at the house. So, we wouldn't have been able to bring them back down."

The house is a national historic site and guests have to be driven up in a shuttle for the tour.

In San Leandro, a plastic bag factory got a serious soaking. Video from SKY7 HD shows a section of roof that collapsed. The owner says heavy rains may have caused it. When it gave way it snapped a pipe for their fire control system, which sprayed even more water on the factory floor.

No one was injured, but some equipment was damaged and the factory was offline for the day as roofing crews worked to patch up the hole.

Santa Cruz Mountain communities hit hard by storm

The storm spared Santa Cruz Mountain communities from mudslides and major flooding, but repair crews were still out in full force.

AT&T, PG&E, and fire agencies were standing by all Friday to handle emergencies as they come up because of the storms. One of the biggest problems in Santa Cruz Mountain communities has been trees falling, especially along ridge tops.

The overnight storm brought down trees, blocking Bonny Doon Road in two spots. Crews moved in and cut up the trees to give way to traffic.

Tree services were also out in force to trim branches that might bring down power lines.

PG&E deployed emergency response teams to roll to outages and to restore service.

For all the heavy rain, local volunteer firefighters were surprised there weren't any mudslides.

"I cleared a few rocks coming down Alba this morning, very minor," said Larry Azzaro with the county emergency response team. "I didn't hear about any major mudslides at all. So far so good, but there's more to come."

Residents at higher elevations said they experienced the strong gusts that were forecast.

"The wind?" resident Johnny Hope asked. "Oh, the wind was gnarly. We just came back from town, and it was blowing like crazy."

"I live up in Bonny Doon," Patty Ford said. "And it was like wailing up the hill, and it was lovely and exciting and fun, yeah."

When it rains in Felton, people think nothing of it. That's why it's so green and lush. And if a storm causes some inconvenience, they shrug their shoulders. But they also know Mother Nature can be unpredictable.

BART service impacted by weather

BART had two separate problems Friday morning that caused delays.

Rain seeped through the ventilation system and into the computer system. Train operators had to manually drive the trains through the transbay tube, which means the trains go much slower.

Commuters tried to figure out whether getting on board was worth the gamble. Walnut Creek resident Joanne Ottone decided she'd better just go home rather than try to get to the city.

"It's really hard to tell," she said. "I looked on the website and I see all the trains are running at their normal intervals, but it doesn't say whether it's gonna be a 32 min ride or a 52 minute ride or a ride longer than that, so I thought I'd take my chances and come down here, but I'm gonna go home."

The signs that it was going to be a tough morning came early. There was so much rain- so fast, one this Pittsburg neighborhood flooded before 5 a.m. Driving through it was so heavy the windshield wipers had trouble keeping up. Ottone knew that for her, it was BART or nothing.

BART got its computer problems cleared by about 8 a.m. But then they were hit by another round of problems that caused another set of delays. A spokesperson says their components just act up when they get wet.

Flight cancellations

Friday's rain contributed to about 87 flight cancellations at San Francisco International Airport.

Oakland International reported three cancelled flights and Mineta San Jose reported none.

If you're heading to the airport, you're urged to call ahead or check your flight status online first.

Bay Area power outages

At about 6 p.m., PG&E reported that there's a total of 337 people in the Bay Area without power.

That includes 132 in San Francisco, 143 in the North Bay, 22 in the East Bay, 37 in the South Bay, and 3 along the Peninsula.

(ABC7 News reporters Wayne Freedman, Jonathan Bloom, Sergio Quintana, David Louie, and Amy Hollyfield contributed to this report)


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