East Bay residents advised to pre-evacuate ahead of strongest winds of season, high fire danger

Luz Pena Image
Sunday, October 25, 2020
High fire danger: Berkeley residents urged to pre-evacuate
City of Berkeley officials are warning residents to be on alert and advise those in the hills to consider leaving home before strong winds pummel the Bay Area on Sunday prompting a Red Flag Warning and a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- City of Berkeley officials are warning residents to be on alert and advise those in the hills to consider leaving home before strong winds pummel the Bay Area on Sunday.

Several public parks in the East Bay hills will also be closed Sunday through Monday in anticipation of high winds, low humidity and dry vegetation that will combine to pose a significant fire risk, the East Bay Regional Parks District said.

The closures include Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area, Lake Chabot Regional Park, Leona Canyon Open Space Regional Preserve, Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Tilden Regional Park and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

ACCUWEATHER FORECAST: Red Flag Warning, Wind Advisory issued for Bay Area Sunday

High winds along with dry conditions "are expected to create the most dangerous fire weather Berkeley has seen so far this year," according to a warning posted Friday on the Berkeley city manager's web page.

Winds could reach 70 mph or higher over ridges and peaks late Sunday and early Monday, mainly in the North and East Bay hills, according to the National Weather Service. The strongest gusts will likely come Sunday night into Monday morning, forecasters said.

A Red Flag Warning has been issued for the East Bay Hills, North Bay Mountains, and the Diablo from 11 a.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Tuesday. An additional Red Flag Warning is in effect for the North and East Bay valleys, San Francisco Peninsula, Bay Shoreline, Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Santa Clara Valley, from 8 p.m. Sunday through 11 a.m. Monday.

RELATED: PG&E may cut power to 386,000 customers due to dangerous winds starting Sunday

All residents should be on heightened alert and make sure phones are charged, according to the Berkeley city officials. Residents who live east of Claremont Avenue and residents of Panoramic Hill should also prepare for potential power shutoffs, officials said.

Residents of Panoramic hill say one trail in Tom Miller's backyard is their "escape route."

The trail, not open to the public, was built 47 years ago and throughout the years, residents built a bridge and added reflectors and lights to lead the way in case of a fire.

"This is the ravine that on the other side is University of California land where there was married student housing until it was torn down a few years ago. So there are roads on the other side of this ravine that we can get to on foot," said Tom Miller.

WATCH: CAL FIRE, Bay Area braces for powerful winds, critical fire conditions this weekend

The wind storm heading to the Bay Area this weekend could rival the strong offshore event during 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County.

With the strongest wind event of the year projected to hit the Bay Area Sunday. Berkley Hills residents were urged to pre-evacuate.

"The narrow, windy street network in the Berkeley hills can get crowded quickly. The more people who leave the area in advance, the more space there will be on roads if an evacuation is required," the city posted on its website.

Many like Frank Tapia are staying put for now as he plans an exit plan on the hill. He said, "We get traffic jams here all the time, there is no getting around it."

In Panoramic Hill there is the only way in and the only way out.

"We have engines on standby. We are calling mutual aid. We have police patrol and crews ready to respond to down trees or power lines to make sure that our roads are accessible," said Mayor Jesse Arreguin.

With the projected wind event also comes a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff by PG&E. Over 700 Berkeley customers may lose their power for at least two days starting as early as Sunday at 4 p.m.

VIDEO: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation

If there's time, here is a list of essentials to take with you during a wildfire evacuation. Above all else, follow instructions given and get out of harm's way.

Some have already even gone through an emergency fire drill.

Luz Pena: "Have you ever had to use this escape route before?"

Tom Miller: "No we've never had to use it before."

"We've offered to show the route several times and groups of people have come," he added.

But Sunday will be the telling day.

Up-to-date information on the park closures can be found here.

Watch the latest AccuWeather forecast and take a look at recent WEATHER stories and videos.

Bay City News contributed to this report.