Deadly Bay Area storm leads to evacuations, hundreds of toppled trees and thousands without power

ByABC7 News staff KGO logo
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Deadly Bay Area storm leaves path of destruction across region
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Bay Area residents are reeling after a rare "bomb cyclone" pummeled the region Tuesday toppling trees and leaving thousands without power.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- High winds throughout the Bay Area on Tuesday blew down multiple trees and knocked out power, causing cancellations and delays on public transit, the closures of some highways and roads, and safety hazards as arcing power lines hit land.

Point Potrero in Richmond logged the highest Bay Area winds at 88 mph, according to the National Weather Service as of 8:08 p.m.

RELATED: See record stats from 'once-in-a-lifetime' California storm

Los Gatos saw winds at 82 mph, Oakland International Airport and Mount Diablo logged winds at 74 mph in the East Bay, Napa saw gusts at 65 mph, San Francisco International Airport reached gusts of 64 mph, and the Monterey, Palo Alto and Watsonville airports all saw winds at up to 59 mph.

East Bay

In Alameda, the effects of Tuesday's storm could still be felt throughout the city which included a lampost that fell at a car dealership.

"It was actually a pretty nice day up until it wasn't. All of a sudden it started storming, and windy and crazy rain. I heard a boom and here we are," says Alex Dimant, the owner of Diamond Auto Sales.

That boom was the lamppost landing on an Audi SUV, busting through the panoramic roof. He says it took a forklift and four people to lift the pole to move the car. He is just thankful that no one was injured.

"That's my biggest thing. Nobody was hurt. And as I told you earlier, if money can fix it, its expense. It's not a problem," says Dimant.

And there were other issues around the city. A massive tree crushed a play structure at McKinley Park, where Carolyn Thamkul brings her young son.

RELATED: At least 5 killed from Tuesday's powerful Bay Area storm, officials say

"Absolutely shocked, completely surreal. We were just playing here on Monday," says Thumkal. "In the evening I went out and it was almost like a hurricane. Like a bomb cyclone."

Ricky Boniano is with the city's Recreation and Park Department. He says wind gusts were up to 80 mph.

"This (debris) is all over the parks. Almost every park in Alameda. I mean, it felt like a hurricane. I have never seen anything like that. Born and raised here 64 years. It's unreal," says Boniano.

Down trees forced closures on city roads. At one point, one lane of traffic getting onto the island was also closed. All that, combined with power outages and a wind advisory.

"We were concerned. We noticed on the weather reports they gave a warning about the wind and the saturated ground, there would be a lot of trees down. And, they were right," says long-time resident Maryann Thorton, who lives near the park.

Oakland's Montclair neighborhood got hit with strong wind gusts from Tuesday's storm. Many trees are down and power is out numerous residents.

"I couldn't leave Montclair," said Mark Stauffer, a resident of over 60 years. "I couldn't get down to the village to go to the store. Every road was closed."

Other residents had trees fall on their property causing damage. Yolanda Jenkins had her deck destroyed Tuesday and now says it could take months before it gets repaired.

"All of a sudden there was this crash and this huge gigantic tree just fell over," she said. "No one can do anything, because everybody is suffering from something right now with all this flooding and rain."

San Francisco

San Francisco crews said Wednesday they are assessing and cleaning up the citywide damage caused by Tuesday's high winds and rain, including hundreds of fallen trees, power outages and major traffic disruptions.

Stormy conditions not only caused property damage, like glass and debris falling from high-rise buildings or 900 fallen trees and limbs -- it also resulted in two deaths.

The city said two people were brought to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday afternoon from storm-related injuries. Neither of them survived.

The hospital is also one of many facilities that lost power on Tuesday afternoon. As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., the hospital is operating on backup generators and remains fully operational, city officials said.

At the storm's peak, 35,000 customers lost power around the city, including facilities like the Public Works Yard and trailers for unsheltered people at Pier 94. Over 8,000 customers remain without power as of late Wednesday morning, according to the city.

VIDEO: Fujiwhara Effect: Here's why the wind was so intense in San Francisco


A mudslide in San Mateo County prompted an evacuation advisory for more than 30 homes Wednesday, says ABC7's Zach Fuentes.

It happened in the Town of Woodside on Patrol Road. Officials were concerned that if the road gave out to the slide, emergency access would be cut off.

The slide is attributed to the storm that impacted much of the Bay Area Tuesday. A storm that shocked residents like Donald MacLeod who's lived at his home since 1964.

"Normally we're sheltered because we've got a mountain race between here and the ocean," MacLeod, "Redwood trees were flapping back and forth, like sails in the wind. It was a quite an extraordinary experience."

Town officials say they first got word of it at 5 a.m. Wednesday, when a resident called for help, concerned that a tree was going to fall into their home.

"As crews arrived on scene, they noticed that the tree was falling into the structure," said Keenan Hird, battalion chief with the Woodside Fire Protection District, "They noticed a slight landslide that over the course of time got increasingly worse. At that point, we made a decision just to let the residents in the area know that it could potentially get worse."

Officials say the slide originated at one property and the threatened one lower, those two homes saw forced evacuations.

With road access for emergency crews and residents threatened, San Mateo County Sheriffs deputies went door to door to the other homes to advise homeowners to leave.

Most we spoke with did not leave but still took precautions.

"I parked my truck and the other side of the slide here so I could make sure I can always get in and out," said neighbor David Scheinman.

Geologists were on scene to evaluate the stability of the slide, the experts expected to continue monitoring it through at least the rest of the week.

Woodside's town manager also says they'll likely keep the evacuation advisory in place during that time.

Along the San Mateo County coast they are dealing with all sorts of problems following Tuesday's storm, according to ABC7's Suzanne Phan.

Three trees toppled onto Seton Coastside Medical Center in Moss Beach.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

A spokeswoman says they're still trying to figure out how bad the damage was and if patients will be transferred to the facility in Daly City.

At the Ted Adcock Center in Half Moon Bay, crews are clearing away much of the debris after a eucalyptus tree slammed into the community center yesterday afternoon. No one was hurt their either.

Pescadero Creek overflowed its banks. Cindy Ellis said her 3.5 acre farm in Pescadero is now under 6 inches of water.

She estimates the wind gusts got up to 60 miles per hour. "Things have been blowing around; It's horrific," said Ellis.

In Pacifica, a lot of people say they've had enough of this wild weather.

"I'm over it. I'm an avid surfer out here. I'm also a surf instructor out here," said Rob Brooks of Pacifica. "A lot of pollution in the water with all the agriculture flow we get from that creek."

"Just a lot of downed trees; part of the drive up here, the part of the lane was closed because of rock sliding into the road, said Kemp Dowdy of San Jose who headed to Pacifica to go surfing. "And pretty much in the ocean, just the brown water and the debris."

PG&E says the largest power outage is in Pacifica where there were about 9,000 customers without power on Wednesday afternoon.

As the Bay Area cleans up after another powerful and deadly storm, for many in Half Moon Bay, the problems just won't seem to go away.

"It just keeps on, keeps on going. We've had power lines down. Eucalyptus trees fell in the middle of the night. You name it, it's happened," said Julie Carrillo.

Carrillo lives with her family on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay in an unincorporated part of San Mateo County.

She says ever since the big storm hit on New Year's Eve, the major roadway that leads from her house into town remains badly damaged.

For the past few months, she and her neighbors have had to find much longer, alternative routes to get almost anywhere.

Carrillo says the lack of communication from officials has been a growing source of frustration.

"We have yet to hear anything from the county about any update about progress or status related to the road closure," she said.

But it's not just roads that are impacting Carrillo and other peninsula residents. For thousands, power is still out.

Many in the area have spent weeks without it since the start of the new year.

"We're looking for the biggest outages. How can we get the most customers back as quickly as possible. We are looking for customers who have been out of power for the longest amount of time," said Aaron Johnson of PG&E.

PG&E says since Dec. 31st, they've replaced almost 5,000 power poles and around 850 miles of wire.

That's enough to go from Oracle Park in San Francisco to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and back.

"We brought in 80 extra crews for the storm into the inner Bay Area. And that wasn't sufficient," Johnson said.

So for now, many residents can do nothing but sit and wait.

Hoping that when the next storm hits, things might not be as bad.

"I feel that these storms have really exposed some inadequacies in PG&E and also the county and how it's been reporting and not really advocating for constituents like ourselves," said Carrillo.

South Bay

For some residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the "mountain living" lifestyle has never been as challenging as it has been in 2023. Powerful winds brought down dozens of trees down in the San Lorenzo Valley Tuesday. In Boulder Creek, wind gusts topped 65 miles per hour at the peak. The aftermath Wednesday was devastating.

"It looked like a tornado had touched down," Boulder Creek resident Clayton Boyer said. "The amount of wires, both power and utility, they were sprinkled all over like they were spider webs."

"It looks like a warzone up there," Boulder Creek resident Chris Bacon said. "I have seen downed trees for a good part of my life and I haven't seen trees this big go down like that."

Thousands are now without power. Caltrans and PG&E are working together to de-energize lines so crews can clear the road with fallen trees. PG&E says they hope to restore power throughout the weekend.

ABC7 reporters Dustin Dorsey, Anser Hassan, Lyanne Melendez and Zach Fuentes contributed to this story.

Bay City News Service contributed to this article.

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