Bay Area cleaning up after series of storms


Flooded classrooms cancel classes in Marin County

There's no choir or computer class at a Marin County school today, only cleaning. Classrooms, offices, and the library are soaked after weekend storms left a big mess forcing the cancellation of classes Monday.

Hundreds of children in Fairfax are waiting to find out when they'll be able to attend school again. White Hill Middle School on Glen Drive took on significant damage in Sunday's severe winter storm. Clean-up crews arrived Monday morning as school administrators and outside consultants met to discuss how to go about the clean-up process and operate the school without an entire building.

Three big storms filled a little culvert behind the school causing extensive flooding over the weekend. "We have four classrooms that have been fairly filled with debris and mud, and will need some structural support along with our main administrative offices and our library," Superintendent of Ross Valley Schools Eileen Rohan said.

The building is only 10-years-old. Now, administrators face having to tear out the floors and possibly the walls. "We anticipate that flooring will be replaced depending upon what the damage is as it's going up the wall," Rohan said. "We may need to remove furniture that's attached to the wall and do some additional work."

As the damage assessment begins, classes were cancelled for all 620 6th through 8th-grade students, a painstaking decision for those who made it. "We spent about three hours yesterday, our whole team, managing what we could do," Rohan said. "It's always hard to close a school. It's never an easy decision to make and we thought long and hard."

Rohan says the good news in all of this is that insurance will cover the cost of fixing the flood damage and if administrators get their way, school will be back in session on Tuesday, with or without the use of the four flooded classrooms.

Road collapses in Lafayette

Repairs are underway in Lafayette after a road collapsed severing gas, water, and sewer lines. A massive section of Mountain View Drive turned into a big sinkhole. Surprisingly, neighbors trying to find the positive in the situation say the problem may be a blessing in disguise.

The huge hole in the busy neighborhood street forced people to use a new detour in their morning routine. "It's extraordinary. I know it's going to add another, I don't know, five to ten minutes of driving every day, each direction, just to get him to school," resident Jackie Bronson said referring to her son. "So, I can't imagine for everyone else."

City leaders say it will be this way for quite some time. Residents will have to get used to the sight of the sinkhole and the trucks and equipment that has been moved in to repair it. "This will not be used until spring or summer," Lafayette City Manager Steven Falk said. Crews spent Sunday night and Monday morning focused on getting utilities up and running. When the road collapsed because of heavy rains, it severed some essential water and sewage lines. Crews put temporary tubes in place to get water to people, which worked, but in a compromised fashion. "It was weak. I wouldn't want to do that every day, but it was there," resident Kirk Patterson said about his morning shower.

Next on the list is to build a temporary storm drain and then come up with a permanent solution which will take several months to complete. The thought of living with the giant hole is a but unnerving for some. "It's a little terrifying, but I know that people are working on it and I've got confidence in the city to take care of it," neighbor Christina Wang said.

Others are looking at the positive side. The shortcut to downtown through their neighborhood has been severed, "All the traffic comes through here. Nobody stops at the stop sign and it's dangerous for the kids," Patterson said.

"The good news is that everyone who lives in the city can still get to work or school by taking just a short detour of about a block and a half," Falk said. Officials say they have about $5 million in their rainy day fund which they'll use to get the road fixed.

The latest update from the city is that all utilities have been restored to residents in the immediate area except for water to a handful of homes up the hill. Now, their big concern is making sure the area can handle the next round of rains without more flooding. Officials say they will not be installing a temporary bridge.

Trees crews busy with calls all around San Francisco

In San Francisco, public works crews were out again Monday cleaning up any remaining debris left by Sunday's big storm. A lot of trees have fallen during the storms because the ground is oversaturated and like one tree that fell in Pacific Heights damaging a Mercedes last week, they often damage anything and everything in their path when they fall.

In San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood, a fallen Cyprus tree spread across three backyards damaging several fences. This weekend's storm toppled a number of trees in other neighborhoods. "It's not actually the roots failing. It's the roots ability to hold on to the soil and so the tree actually rotates in the soil and falls over," Christopher Campbell with Tree Design explained.

Golden Gate Park had its share of fallen trees too. Crews worked quickly Monday to remove those that had fallen along several paths. Some of the larger fallen branches had not yet been cleared. The Panhandle near the park had a lot of debris and mud making it somewhat challenging for bicyclists. "Slipping, the fear of slipping is worse than the reality," one cyclist said.

At least four roads in Golden Gate Park were closed for safety reasons. There was a washout just above Speedway Meadows. Several water and electrical pipes were exposed. Still, park officials say the overall damage to Golden Gate Park was limited.

"It's probably good for the earth. It's probably good that they break it all up and put it back in the earth as fertilizer, as long as no one gets hurt when they fall down," resident Arlene Ho said.

It can cost up to $2,000 remove each fallen tree. Crews with the Department of Public Works worked overtime to tackle roughly 40 calls of downed trees and branches.

New culvert prevents flooding along Napa Creek

As the waters rose in Napa last weekend, plenty of residents expected another scene like 2005, when Napa Creek overflowed its banks. This time, it didn't, thanks mostly to a $35 million, federally funded bypass project by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The project was simple in concept and difficult in execution -- control the flow of water. A new culvert doubled capacity during the storm. If it had not been here last weekend, the creek would have flooded.

'It can be dramatic; it can happen very fast and can create significant damage," Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson John Corrigan said.

Napa has suffered through 24 serious floods since the Civil War. Last weekend could easily have been the 25th. While outsiders think first of the Napa River, which floods once every seven years, the creek overruns its banks three times as often.

Twelve inches fell last weekend, but where bottleneck portions of the creek used to be tight and narrow, the project has provided those rushing waters more room both wide and high. Last weekend, waters rose only one-third of the way up the new bank.

Road washed out in Santa Cruz

A washed-out road is also posing a problem for commuters in Santa Cruz County. Road crews will be back to evaluate the situation at Vine Hill Road near Camino Vista. A county roads manager says it's going to be a long-term closure while the road is fixed. Two other rockslides that occurred on Highway 17 Sunday morning were cleared by the afternoon.

Bay Area power outage update

PG&E spent Monday trying to restore power to remaining Bay Area homes and businesses. As of 6 p.m., 2,470 customers were without power; 200 in the North Bay, 600 in the East Bay, 90 in San Francisco, 600 on the Peninsula, and 980 in the South Bay. At the peak of the storm, nearly 340,000 customers were without power across the Bay Area.

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