Atmospheric river live updates: Driver rescued from car taking on floodwater, Sonoma Co. fire says

Thursday, February 1, 2024
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An atmospheric river is impacting the Bay Area Wednesday into Thursday as heavy rain, strong winds, and flooding hit the region.

TIMELINE: Strong level 3 storm to bring heavy rain, strong winds with flood watch for Bay Area

WATCH: Latest AccuWeather forecast

ABC7 News weather anchor Spencer Christian has the latest on the Level 3 strong storm impacting Bay Area Wednesday.


11 p.m. Kashia School District in Sonoma Co. to close Thursday

The Kashia School District in Sonoma County will be closed Thursday due to weather, the county Office of Education said.

The district has one school, Kashia Elementary, located in Stewarts Point on Skaggs Spring Road in the northern coastal area of the county.

The Sonoma County Office of Education said the closure is due to a power outage and other storm-related impacts.

10:16 p.m. Driver rescued from car taking on floodwater in Sonoma County

Sonoma County fire crews rescued a person from a vehicle taking floodwater on Mark West Station Rd. at Starr Rd. Person, the department posted on X.

Fire officials are warning drivers to not risk it by driving on flooded roads.

10 p.m.As storm pummels North Bay, nonprofits help those most in need

As the atmospheric river drops rain on the North Bay, many local residents have been preparing.

At the Ritter Center in San Rafael, staff have been giving out supplies to help the city's homeless population.

"Giving them some opportunities to pick up tents, blankets, clothing, tarps, all those things," said Rachelle Valenzuela.

Valenzuela works at the center. She tells us she and her colleagues work closely with Marin County officials during major weather events.

"That kind of helps us to prepare. So okay we need to initiate a severe weather campaign. We do that pretty much every time a big storm is happening," Valenzuela said.

That severe weather campaign is exactly what the Ritter Center is in the middle of right now - collecting donations from the public to help them continue to provide for those most in need.

During our visit Wednesday afternoon, we met Robert, who came to get a poncho for the evening.

"It'd be miserable without them. And, for some people, it could be life or death," Robert said.

Further north in Novato, the heavy rain wasn't enough to stop a soccer game at San Marin High School.

Scott and Tanya Madsen's son was playing in the game.

"You're prepared. You layer up. You get prepared with everything. We ended up buying bigger umbrellas at one point because it rained so much last year. So you figure out a way," Scott said.

The Madsens say even though these conditions aren't necessarily fun, they were determined to be here.

"It's the last game so it's a big one, it matters. But not loving it. Soccer in the rain is not as fun for the spectators," Tanya said.

7:54 p.m.: Fallen tree prompts road closure in Santa Cruz County

A fallen tree has closed Soquel San Jose Road, north of Rancho Soquel Road in Santa Cruz County Wednesday evening, according to CHP. Drivers are asked to take alternate routes.

6 p.m. Oakland Zoo to remain closed on Thursday

The Oakland Zoo was closed Wednesday and will be closed Thursday due to the weather.

The San Francisco Zoo closed at 1 p.m. on Wednesday also because of the weather.

It has not said what its plans are for Thursday.

5:15 p.m.: Town of Danville, rest of East Bay preparing for Wednesday night's Level 3 storm

A year after the historic flooding and torrential downpours, the town of Danville had crews trimming trees and clearing storm drains ahead of Wednesday night's storm.

A year after the historic flooding and torrential downpours, the town of Danville had crews trimming trees and clearing storm drains ahead of Wednesday night's storm. Many residents say they learned from last winter and are more prepared for this time.

The Balk family live on an elevated property. Even so, their front lawn still flooded last winter. They have cleaned their gutters and did extra maintenance of their yards. And, they are happy to see crews getting ready.

"Ever since last year, there has been a lot of clean-up, which is much appreciated. Especially since, down the road, there were cars which were underneath the water, which was crazy! And we went to go check it out and it was up to (our knees)," says Emily Balk.

Kelly Kalfsbeek, with Contra Costa County Public Works Department, says, "As always, we are encouraging our customers to be proactive. To make sure they are cleaning up leaves, clearing their drains and gutters. Checking their property for any trouble spots."

She advises residents to check areas for erosion or where water may be pooling. Know your flood risk, she add. And, call the city or county for help immediately after a problem arises.

"A lot of cities have different things like 'See Click Fix' or ways to report issues to them. We have something called our customer portal, as well as the mobile citizen app. So, there are a lot of great ways for people to contact the city or town or county to let them know about any issues that arise," explains Kalfsbeek.

Officials remind residents to check their city and county social media for updates.

3:30 p.m. Santa Cruz Mountains prepare for high winds, heavy rain in first major storm of 2024

Things have been relatively calm in the Santa Cruz Mountains this winter, but residents here know that's about to change.

Things have been relatively calm in the Santa Cruz Mountains this winter, but residents here know that's about to change.

"I want to prepare because a lot of people are talking about that it's going to hit pretty hard. We haven't had a hard rain from late last year to now," Boulder Creek Resident Gary Klemz said. "They said it might go 18 hours and we could get, maybe, 7-8 inches of rain. That's a lot."

Neighborhoods like Soquel Village and Rio Del Mar Flats along with Felton Grove, Paradise Park and the Interlaken area near Watsonville have been notified about the danger of flooding and high winds from this storm.

The county says taking steps now to prepare for everything else the storm could bring can prevent damage and save lives.

"The ground is already saturated and there's nowhere for that water to go, which is why we're concerned about flooding in some of these areas that frequently see flooding," Santa Cruz County PIO Jason Hoppin said. "Those trees come down, they affect the roads, they take out power lines, they cause outages, they take out communication lines and it takes us awhile to get that cleaned up."

11 a.m.: East Bay prepares for heavy rain, possible power outages

PG&E says they're taking lessons learned from last year's New Year's Day storm and putting them to use this year, keeping their staff on standby to help as outages pop up.

With storm preparations underway in the East Bay, local hardware stores are stocked and ready for a rush.

Ace Hardware says tarps are one of their most popular products ahead of the storms.

"I think we have been selling more tarps in the past couple of months than usual just for the rain that's come through, people wanting to cover up motorcycles, and patio furniture or they discover there's a leak in the shed roof or something like that," Karen Bardsley, an Ace Hardware employee said.

Public works departments across the East Bay are setting up sandbag stations, urging residents to bag up before the heavy rains come, since runoff could happen quickly with the soil already supersaturated.

PG&E says they don't have any planned public safety power outages at this time but they're telling customers to prepare for anything.

"We are prepared, we want our customers to be prepared as well," Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokesperson said. "It's always good to be prepared for the possibility of an outage so having flashlights with fresh batteries instead of candles for safety, if you do experience an outage, you can unplug your large appliances but leave one light on."

They say they're taking lessons learned from last year's New Year's Day storm and putting them to use this year, keeping their staff on standby to help as outages pop up.

"They're continuing to do regular work but with the knowledge that we may have to shift and send people to outages due to the storm and certainly if there is a need, we can bring staff from lesser hit areas to harder hit areas," Sarkissian said.

PG&E says if you see any low or downed power lines in this storm, always assume that they are live, stay away from them and call PG&E and 911 immediately.

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8:30 a.m.: Two Sonoma County schools close Wednesday

Two schools in Sonoma County closed on Wednesday ahead of expected heavy rainfall in the region.

The Sonoma County Office of Education confirmed in a notice the closure of Kashia School, a K-8 school near the coast, and SunRidge School in the Twin Hills Union School District in Sebastopol.

No other public school district or school in the county has announced a storm-related closure.

7:30 a.m.: Bay Area shelters set up ahead of atmospheric river

Shelters were set up for residents of the greater Bay Area ahead of expected severe weather conditions likely to cause flooding in the region starting Wednesday.

Forecasters earlier said there will be impactful weather into Wednesday night with strong gusty winds and locally heavy rainfall. Residents are advised to expect downed trees, power outages, and flooding of roadways and streams.

Due to these weather conditions, residents are urged to evacuate to the following sites if needed:

  • Depot Park at 119 Center St. in Santa Cruz (until Friday)
  • Veterans Memorial Hall at 215 E. Beach St. in Watsonville (until Friday)
  • Homeless Services Center of Catholic Charities' Caritas Center at 301 Sixth St., Suite 108 in Santa Rosa (until Friday)
  • Roosevelt Community Center at 901 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose (until Monday)
  • Marin Health and Wellness Campus at 3240 Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael (until Thursday)
  • Jack London Square Aquatic Center at 115 Embarcadero in Oakland (until Thursday)
  • East Oakland Sports Center - 9161 Edes Ave. in Oakland (until Thursday)

6 a.m.: Newsom activates State Operations Center

In anticipation of Wednesday's storm, Governor Newsom is activating the State Operations Center.

The Center allows for a coordinated emergency response among state, local, and federal agencies.

Calfire also taking precautions ahead of the intensifying weather.

They're reminding the public to prepare for a potential danger.

Check to make sure your emergency equipment like flashlights and generators are working.

Check your local county websites for where you can get sandbags and create a "family communication plan" in case you get separated from loved ones.


East Bay braces for atmospheric river storm, possible flooding

San Francisco Bay Area residents are bracing for Wednesday's atmospheric river storm and preparing what they can for potential flooding.

On New Year's Day in 2023, those who live in the East Bay remember the torrential rains flooding many local waterways, especially on El Capitan Drive in Danville where homes were inundated with water. The Trucco family had water up to their front door and had to be rescued.

"Actually, the fire department had to take us out of our house," Joy Trucco said." I couldn't get out of my house.

"That was last year so now you must have a little bit of fear?" ABC7 News reporter Leslie Brinkley asked.

"Anxiety. Oh yes, I do and my two next-door neighbors - we all do. Very scary," Trucco answered.

Public works departments say last year's storm was problematic because it swept through as all the leaves fell from the trees, clogging the drains. This time, the late January timing means the leaves are already cleared out.

"We're in storm prep mode. As always, we're doing our due diligence and we're making sure we're clearing out our storm drains, catch basins and roadside ditches," Kelly Kalfsbeek, spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Public Works Department said. "We have all staff and all hands on deck."

Sandbag stations around the county are stocked up with officials urging residents to bag up before the heavy rain comes since runoff could happen quickly with the soil already super saturated.

"With the ground saturated, trees are more likely to fall," Kalfsbeek added.

Danville residents say they've seen a lot of debris removed in many locations but say more could be done to mitigate flood risks.

MORE: How to prep your home for rain storms and other emergencies

The operations chief with San Ramon Valley Fire District said that along with other Contra Costa agencies, they've gotten OES approval to have extra resources on standby for this atmospheric river including five extra engines, a dozer, a hand crew and a swift water task force - just in case.

Santa Cruz Co. residents fear for potential flooding, power outages

PG&E said the Santa Cruz mountains could see the most adverse weather so they're activating their emergency operation centers in the region.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, volunteers with the county alerted residents in high-risk areas heavy rain is coming.

Public information officer for Santa Cruz County Jason Hoppin said they're expecting the storm system to be short but impactful.

Officials say there is a potential for flooding at local creeks and rivers.

"We had a rain event about a week to 10 days ago where the San Lorenzo River came in about 4 feet above predicted levels, so that shows us the ground is very saturated," Hoppin said.

Along the San Lorenzo River behind the Felton Covered Bridge, is Tamara Boole's equestrian center. The property boards around 60 horses.

Boole said they have 20 acres in the back that often go underwater in the winter during certain emergencies, they have evacuated for fires and floods.

"We flooded last year and we did we had all the horses leave the property, so we do have a pretty extensive evacuation plan," Boole said.

A bulletin gives others a heads-up to plan ahead of time.

"What we ask our boarders to do so ahead of time to find someplace for their horse to go," Boole said. "Whether it's a different stable or whether its someone's backyard, we have lists of that too of people that'll help out."

Boole will remain at the property and watch the weather closely.

"Water is powerful and we need the rain. We'll probably be up and watchful," Boole said.

MORE: What to do if you're returning to a flooded home

PG&E said the Santa Cruz mountains could see the most adverse weather so they're activating their emergency operation centers in the region.

Ayzin Uludag, a Bonny Doon resident said over the summer they cut douglas fir trees that were facing her house. They're prepared in case of outages.

"We have a generator already and we also got a battery as a backup and we are storing some food," Uludag said.

The staggering toll of last year's series of storms damaged homes, businesses and beloved destinations.

The pier at Seacliff State Beach was deemed irreparable and was removed.

Due to unsafe weather conditions this week, Seacliff State Beach will be closed from Wednesday to Thursday.

Bay City News contributed to this story.

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