Storm system hitting Bay Area kicks into high-gear

ABC7 weather forecaster Spencer Christian says that especially along the coast, there could be gusts could reach or exceed 50 miles per hour during the evening hours. That, of course, could increase the possibility of downed trees and power outages.

The Bay Area has been preparing for these storms. Street crews in Berkeley were busy clearing storm drains so they can handle the rain.

Big, fat raindrops were pelting the surface of Boulder Creek, making it clear this was a storm with significant rainfall, at least in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Residents worried about the lack of rainfall saw their spirits pick up.

"I think it's awesome, we really need it up here," Boulder Creek resident Dave Chapman said. "It's been a super super dry year and it's about time, it's great."

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District is monitoring the precipitation and is encouraged about its impact. However, this week's storms won't erase the seasonal rain deficit.

"We've had about a half inch of rain in the last 12 hours," said Jim Mueller with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. "We're expecting to see another inch through the storm and then tonight. And then about another two inches late Thursday night into Friday. That'll bring our rainfall projections to about 12 inches for our season to date, which brings us from about 20 percent of normal up to 30 percent of normal."

A long-time resident is still hopeful a more normal pattern of winter storms is taking hold.

"It could rain every day next month and every day this month too," mountain resident Mike Lambert said. "So it's hard to say, yeah."

The rain did cause trees to topple, such as a 40-foot tall pine in Los Altos. The fallen tree damaged a fence but spared nearby houses and cars.

There were also problems along the Peninsula. A large tree toppled onto parked cars in San Bruno.

Meanwhile in the North Bay, a full day of rain was a welcome sight.

In Healdsburg, the rains came down enough for some decent runoff from homes. But the Russian River is still looking pretty shallow. While in Santa Rosa, a sustained soaking meant it was time to pull out the umbrellas to grab lunch.

The rain kept PG&E crews busy trying to restore power for as many as 1,700 customers in Sonoma and Napa counties.

But even with the handful of problems that come with this storm, residents say it's well worth it. Especially in such a dry winter.

"It's wet, but we really need it," Petaluma resident Fred Snow said. "Desperately need it."

"We need like 20 inches to get to normal," Petaluma resident Duffy Stewart said. "So this will help, we're not nearly there, but this will help."

In Mill Valley, people suited up for the rains and welcomed the sustained soaking. Sand bags are available for those who need them at the Harrison Street fire station.

"I have a whole stockpile in the backroom waiting for the inevitable, yeah," Dave Marshall said.

Marshall is feeling a bit nervous about the forecast. His bar, the 2AM Club, flooded a few weeks ago during the last storm. On Wednesday morning, instead of doing bar business, he was watching weather reports and studying tidal charts.

"Unfortunately, where the bar is located, I'm studying tidal charts," he said. "You'd think I'd be surfing, right?"

When the tide is high, the rain is heavy, and the creek swells, Miller Avenue tends to flood. That's a lot of factors; it doesn't always happen, and Marshall is hoping he'll be lucky this time around,

"I might be in my waders again tonight, stacking sandbags, preparing for the worst," Marshall said. "But for now I'm open for business and just plugging along, waiting to see what Mother Nature throws us."

East Palo Alto was also preparing for the worst. The city sits on flat land only seven feet above sea level. Just in case, its pump station was being prepped to dump more water away from the city.

Two years ago San Francisquito Creek flooded houses along its banks. Resident Ray Webb had to leave his home.

"And then when we started driving it was coming up to the wheel well," Webb said. "Garbage cans floating, real bad situation."

City officials were getting anxious late Wednesday afternoon as the winds grew stronger and the rain heavier.

"We also have to keep in mind where the tides are," EPA Community Development Director John Doughty said. "If we have a combination of storm and high tide, we can have significant flooding."

And in the East Bay, public works crews broke out the heavy equipment to remove branches from a rotting tree, choosing to cut it down before the wet soil could weaken it. By taking the tree down Wednesday, the city removes the threat of it or its branches falling and possibly hurting someone. For now, they've stayed one step ahead of the storm. And they're not the only agency thinking that way.

BART is reminding commuters that the rain can make platforms extremely slippery. They're advising riders to be careful entering and exiting trains and to make room for fellow riders.

"And make sure you have your umbrellas down by your side, your backpacks on the floor, try to fit as many people in as possible and just try to be a nice BART rider," BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said.

(ABC7 News reporters David Louie, Sergio Quintana, Amy Hollyfield, Vic Lee, and Nick Smith contributed to this report)

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