Thunderstorms, hail pummel Bay Area as clean-up efforts continue following devastating floods

ByABC7 News staff KGO logo
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Bay Area hit by another round of storms as clean-up efforts continue
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The storms from last week continue to threaten the Bay Area on Tuesdasy, as widespread flooding is leading to water rescues, road closures and more.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Once again the San Francisco Bay Area was pummeled by storms on Tuesday that brought heavy downpours, hail, lightning and thunder to many parts of the region.

This comes amidst efforts to clean up from a parade of storms that caused devastating flooding across Northern California.

LIVE UPDATES: Thunderstorms bring hail, lightning, thunder to Bay Area

East Bay

Eastbound Ygnacio Valley Road, a major thoroughfare in Walnut Creek, is expected to be closed through the evening commute Tuesday due to downed power lines, police said.

Walnut Creek police had initially issued an alert about the road closure early Tuesday morning, then sent an update later in the morning saying the eastbound lanes remain closed between Civic Drive and Tampico.

Because of the extended closure, police are recommending that motorists use Treat Boulevard as an alternate route.

Nearby residents lost power, as did nearby doctors' offices, many of which were forced to cancel patient appointments. John Muir Medical Center lost power at 2:00 a.m. and relied on emergency generators until power was restored.

John Muir Medical Center said they did not have to divert any ambulance traffic or divert trauma patients.

John Muir's Emergency room is open - patients are advised to be patient with traffic getting to or from appointments. Meanwhile, PG&E crews are out in full force.

Eastbound Ygnacio Valley Road from Civic to Tampico is not expected to reopen until after midnight. Commuters are advised to use Treat Boulevard as an alternate route.

North Bay

Evacuation warnings for areas of Sonoma County along the Russian River were lifted late Tuesday morning as fears of major flooding from this week's stormy weather subsided, according to the county Sheriff's Office.

According to the county, the Russian River at 2 a.m. Tuesday crested at 31.7 feet, just below the 32-foot flood stage, allowing the warnings to be lifted for residents near the river's floodway and its tributaries south of Healdsburg to Jenner.

Sheriff's officials said shortly after 11:15 a.m. that the evacuation warnings had been lifted, but warned that flooded creeks and downed trees may still cause road closures in various unincorporated areas of the county.

For people who had evacuated or need support, a shelter is available at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

For current storm information in Sonoma County, people can visit the county's website.

MORE: Sonoma Co. family mourns 2-year-old killed by falling tree during bomb cyclone

In Novato, it was a dramatic start to the morning for residents on Fairway Drive. A large cedar tree collapsed onto a home. "At 5 o'clock in the morning, a little after, I heard this big thump, like a crash," resident Gabrielle Campbell said. "I knew something was going on so I came out and my neighbors came out, too."

Campbell said the tree in front of her home crashed into her neighbors' garage. Nobody was hurt. The tree did damage her neighbors' car. "It's a mess," she said. "The tree actually didn't break. It came out from its roots."

Crews spent the morning cleaning it up. A tow truck coming to take away the damaged BMW.

"The weather, particularly starting overnight, we got a lot of very sort of sharp brief but fast moving weather events along with thunder and lightning," Woody Baker-Cohn, the assistant emergency manager for the Marin County Office of Emergency Management, said. "So, moving through the county with a lot of heavy rain briefly, and heavy winds as well."

Baker-Cohn said the county is dealing with a number of fallen trees and flooding after the latest round of storms overnight. One issue was flooding at the Lucas Valley Road underpass at Highway 101. Even with the road blocked off, ABC7 News saw one driver ignoring the signs and driving through. "That keeps happening and the weather service has a slogan which is a great one: 'turn around don't drown,'" he said.

Throughout the day, it was on and off rain. Moments of sunshine -- even a big rainbow -- followed by grey skies and storms, including a mix of hail. That heavy rain and strong winds leading to spin outs and other issues, like a collapsed eucalyptus tree which fell at Dominican University in San Rafael.

South Bay

From one day to the next, a town underwater became a town under mud.

The Felton Grove neighborhood is now a swampy mess after a flash flood ripped through early Monday morning.

About as fast as flood waters went up, it went down, leaving a water-stained reminder of just how bad this flooding was.

Less surprising for these neighbors is what comes next: the clean-up.

RELATED: Video shows homes, highways near Gilroy flooded following major storm

Most of these homes are raised, leaving damage limited to many residents' garages and lower levels.

Enjoying a bit of reprieve from the storm, the neighbors hope the bad weather will subside soon enough. Despite really devastating weather, the people of Felton push on. Thankful everyone is okay considering, they count their blessings with each push of a broom or scoop of a shovel.

"You know, making sure the house that we live in is safe, that's the most important thing," Brandon Ammon said. "So, just being able to come back home is very much a blessing."

"When you consider all the possibilities of tornados, and wildfires and people that have lost their homes, the huge floods back East, we have mud," Howard Burman said. "It's not the end of the world."

VIDEO: Drone video shows Felton underwater as Santa Cruz Mountains face flooding, mudslides, evacuations

Crews have been working up and down Lincoln Avenue in San Jose for hours now battling the rain that's been coming down heavily off and on.

It's an image that's shocking the people who know this area best: a huge transmission tower that was part of their everyday view, toppled and crumbled.

"I look over here I saw this was knocked down. Never seen something like this before," said Ninos Rihan who works nearby.

Anthony Gueco owns Alvin's Auto Center along Lincoln Avenue in San Jose, one of the businesses right in the middle of the most extensive damage the transmission tower collapse left behind. The next door the restaurant that now has a power pole buried in its roof.

He says he knew before coming to work that the power was out at his business, but he didn't expect the scene he found.

"I didn't think it was that severe. But when I got in, I knew it was gonna take more than an hour stuffing and take more than a couple of days to fix this," said Anthony Gueco, owner of Alvin's Auto Center.

A community effort is underway to clean up parts of Santa Cruz County wrecked in recent rainstorms.

Governor Gavin Newsom toured Capitola Village on Tuesday. Where, just last week, a rain-swollen Soquel Creek and high surf pummeled popular ocean side businesses.

"The Central Coast... There's nothing like it anywhere in the world," Newsom told reporters.

However, the iconic coastline has been transformed by winter weather conditions.

Newsom told reporters he's been in touch with President Biden who has declared a federal emergency declaration in at least 31 California counties.

He commended residents in Capitola for their action.

"Remarkable," he said. "Just walking through a number of the small businesses. How many of the businessmen and women, the owners of these businesses said people just showed up. Said they just needed one thing, which was gloves, and they took it upon themselves to clean up the debris, trying to get this community back on its feet. And I think that's the spirit that marks these moments."

"We are going to need that continued community spirit in order to continue to get through what might end up being one of the worst winters that we've had on record," Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend told ABC7 News.

His district encompasses Aptos, another beach town torn apart by Mother Nature.

Friend pointed to two feet of rainfall in the coastal area in the last 10 days, as residents brace for more bad weather.

"There's people that just in the last storm set suffered damage. There's people that are still building out of the storms from New Year's Eve and a little bit into earlier January. There's people that haven't yet experienced it," Friend described. "But with the upcoming rains, we expect even more flooding and damage to come."

Of course, it isn't just the coast. Farther north in San Jose, strong winds sent this giant eucalyptus tree into a 137-foot transmission tower. This happened early Tuesday morning in the city's Willow Glen neighborhood.

According to PG&E, the tower's weight alone toppled power lines and power poles.

"This storm has been incredible. We've been hit really hard and we're just so thankful to our customers," PG&E spokesperson Mayra Tostado said. "The crews that are out here, we have over 5,000 personnel. This is the biggest response to any storm in PG&E's history."

"So it's a massive effort," she said.

Tostado said it'll be days until the mangled tower is replaced- certainly much longer for repairs across Santa Cruz County.

"These conditions are serious and they're deadly," Gov. Newsom said on Tuesday. "And that's why it's so important people take care of themselves and use, in closing, common sense as it relates to what they choose to do over the course of the next number of days- until we're out on the other side of this."

San Francisco

Powerful thunderstorms moved through San Francisco on Tuesday toppling trees and dumping hail on many parts of the city.

Video sent in by ABC7 reporters and viewers showed lightning strikes hitting Sutro Tower and the Transamerica building.

ABC7 reporter Lyanne Melendez captured the aftermath of a tree falling on a Muni bus near the intersection of Stockton and Sutter.

She spoke to the driver of a black SUV whose vehicle was hit by the same tree. They said the whole ordeal was terrifying because the tree not only fell on the bus but also took out live powerlines.

Peninsula

In the Peninsula, crews have been responding to downed power lines and trees falling into homes.

In the middle of the night, the Larsen family's home in Redwood City trembled. What they thought was just the wind turned into moments of panic.

"Next thing we know it's a giant crash and the whole building shakes. It felt like an earthquake. The dog came in and we could hear glass shattering and water pouring. We ran out and found inside our living room caved in," said Darryl Larsen, Redwood City resident.

We walked inside their home where one of the tree branches can be seen piercing through the ceiling in their living room. Their dog Cooper was right below it.

Luz Pena: "How close was the tree to your bedroom?"

Elham Larsen: "10 feet. Our bed is next to windows. My fear was that it was going to come to our windows at some point."

Throughout the Peninsula, crews have been responding to downed trees and power lines. We witnessed it as we were driving out of the Woodside area.

Some of the strongest wind gusts reported reached almost 70 miles an hour in the Peninsula. At 2 a.m., those same winds ripped off the roof of this apartment complex in South San Francisco, displacing at least 10 residents.

"The roof membrane or the roof decking material came detached from the building and it was actually hanging in front of the building. Crews went inside and made sure the residents were safe," said Matthew Samson, Deputy Fire Chief for the City of South San Francisco.

Miraculously no injuries were reported. As winds picked up, the National Weather Service placed multiple Peninsula cities under a Flash Flood Warning.

"We've had many storms come through in the last 10 days and our streams and rivers and creeks are pretty high. The good thing is that we've had a day where we haven't had excessive rain," said Ken Anderson Sr., Emergency Management for the City of South San Francisco.

As for the Larsen's on Tuesday, they are counting their blessings.

"A lot of times we fall asleep on the couch where the roof caved in. A lot of times that happens but this time for some reason we just went to bed a little early and I don't know how that happened but it was a miracle I guess," said Elham Larsen.

Bay City News Service contributed to this article.

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