Widespread flooding leads to swift water rescues, road closures across Bay Area after powerful storm

ByABC7 News staff KGO logo
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Widespread flooding wrecking havoc in Bay Area
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The storms from last week continue to threaten the Bay Area on Monday, as widespread flooding is leading to water rescues, road closures and more.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The headaches caused by the storms seen in the last week continue to threaten the Bay Area on Monday, as widespread flooding is leading to water rescues, road closures and more.

Peninsula

Crews are working to clear a massive tree that fell on a home and car in San Bruno.

LIVE UPDATES: Evacuation orders, warnings issued for several parts of Bay Area

The tree fell Saturday night around 11:30 p.m., but wasn't reported to the fire department until early Monday morning. It happened in a residential neighborhood, causing a complete mess and crunching a blue sedan and the garage of a home.

It also knocked out power for all of the homes on one side of Pacific Heights Boulevard, and to surrounding neighbors.

According to the PG&E power outage map, this is impacting at least 500 residents in the area. Power is expected to be restored later Monday.

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

ABC7 News spoke with Monnie Boldt, the neighbor from the property where the tree came from. She says that the homeowners are okay and were able to get out safely, but there's a lot of work now to be done.

"Well my garden needs a little work, let's put it that way," Boldt said.

Boldt says the homeowners were able to get out and are now staying at a friend's house.

Boldt has lived on Pacific Heights Boulevard in San Bruno for 35 years and can't say she's ever seen anything like this before.

"Our landlord's really good about keeping all of the trees trimmed but this was really a surprise and it does definitely take a chunk out of the yard," she said.

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

The giant tree in her front yard, which came with her home, fell towards her neighbor's property amid gusty winds and heavy rain overnight on Saturday.

It wasn't until Monday morning when tree service crews came to remove it.

"We didn't hear anything, but we came out the next morning and our neighbors texted us to say, we've gone to our friends, about the tree and everything," she said.

Everyone inside of the home walked away without a scratch.

RELATED: Comcast says parts of its plant were damaged during the weekend storm

Boldt credits the way the houses on her street are designed for saving her neighbors. The garage is built in front of the home, so the actual house was not damaged.

"No one was hurt, it only hit the front of their garage so in these houses, all of the bedrooms are in the back so we were all safe for that respect," she said.

Local tree services say the ground is incredibly saturated right now, so roots aren't holding.

With more rain coming throughout the week, they expect it to only get worse with more trees coming down.

In the Peninsula, residents are bracing for another wave of rain as they cope with flooded roads and downed trees.

Pescadero resident Wade Watkins helped one of neighbors who got stuck in a flood zone crossing into town.

"I pulled them through, said Watkins and added, "I am no expert. I don't think anybody can. There is always nature throwing wild things at you. But it's a gamble obviously it is a gamble. Sometimes it takes biting your time and going slow and getting stuff done for you family."

Wade and his fiancé have been without power for 4 to 5 days and as more rain approaches today he went out to help his community.

"There's a couple neighbors on the road who need groceries, need medication picked up so I decided to bite my chance and not only take care of my family but help out the community," said Watkins.

As the soil is increasingly saturated downed trees can be seen all throughout San Mateo County. In El Granada a tree felt on the roof of this home almost hitting a 14-year-old.

"The father told me the son was just sleeping inside the room," said John Tonga, Big Green Tree Landscaping.

The parade of storms across the Bay Area continued Monday, and with it more winds and more flooding.

"What can you say, you expect a little bit of flooding but not to that extent," said Dan Nishiyama.

Nishiyama lives in this mobile home park in the city of Belmont.

He and other neighbors say the pumps that had been installed in this community to prevent flooding - failed.

Simply unable to keep up with the amount of water we've received since the new year.

The result is damage to several of the properties.

"Even though they're elevated, got into their houses, you know," said Nishiyama.

Local businesses are feeling the impact of the flooding too.

Joseph Lucero owns a gym.

"I have close to $200,000 worth of damage," he said.

It's a similar story playing out across the whole Bay Area, and around the state.

On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference to discuss the severe weather and the state's response.

"Under the Stafford Act requesting of the White House approval through FEMA region 9 of an emergency declaration to get the full support of the federal government," Newsom said.

While the Biden Administration approved California's emergency request, several local leaders say they're taking more immediate steps.

And some, like San Mateo Mayor Amourance Lee, have even set up GoFundMe pages to assist those in their communities most severely impacted.

"We'll be able to turn out this funding back to the community in a matter of weeks, months and not years, which it can take that long sometimes for FEMA to review each case individually," Lee said.

South Bay

The Guadalupe River is also creating problems for San Jose residents. Minor flooding was forecast for that river through the day.

The rain stopped early Monday morning and waterways like the Guadalupe River have receded from their peak levels, even so, the water was still much higher than normal and rushing fast.

Even though the upcoming storms are weaker, the current water levels still have local leaders on alert.

The impact of the most current storm early Monday morning was nearly deadly for Veronica Maul, who's unhoused and living along the Guadalupe River in San Jose.

"We heard the branches almost three hours ago," Maul said that morning, "Trees starting to want to fall and we were like 'Oh my god' and then we'd seen the water it was super high."

Not long after, she found herself in need of help, fast. Crews were able to rush in and save her as the water only continued to rise.

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

"They helped me get out of being right where it was really flooding and I'm really grateful," she said.

Her incredible rescue isn't the only one that's happened in San Jose since the start of the storms.

"Our fire department engaged in a couple of pretty heroic rescues being out in the channel with fast moving waters, helping two individuals get out of the Guadalupe River," said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.

Overall, officials say they started taking proactive measures at potential flood spots ahead of the storm to minimize damage.

"An example is upper Penitencia Creek where we had to remove a large bunch of sediment just to ensure that flooding didn't occur into the local residences," said Valley Water assistant CEO, Melanie Richardson.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan says protecting the unhoused though living along waterways and reminding them of the evacuation order still in place in those areas will be the city's focus.

MORE: Why is California still in a drought after all this rain? Experts explain

Police continued to drive by announcing the order and shelter information on loud speakers in multiple languages.

City leaders and nonprofits also going on foot to spread the news. Mahan says some of the unhoused have taken them up on their offer to relocate to a shelter run in partnership with the Red Cross.

"We currently have 99 residents and eight dogs at the center," he said, "And as soon as we reach 110 people, we will then move to open the Camden community center."

Despite the water rescues needed and the high creek levels, Mahan and Valley Water officials say that the work the community did ahead of the storms, may have saved lives.

"We think we averted what could have been much worse," Mahan said. Mahan added that they were alerted to a death along Penitancia Creek but they have not gotten a coroner's report yet confirming the circumstances.

The city says the Red Cross shelter and overnight warming shelters will continue to stay open and expand as needed.

North Bay

In the North Bay, Sonoma County is dealing with downed trees, power outages and flooding from rivers and creeks, as well as the rising Russian River, from the latest storm system. Roads from Petaluma to Forestville were closed on Monday because of flooding. Outside of Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County Fire District had to rescue a driver who got trapped in flood waters on Slusser and River Roads. Two cars became submerged in the water and got stuck for hours.

"What we woke up to is more of a mess," Sonoma County District 5 Supervisor Lynda Hopkins told ABC7 News. "Our West County road infrastructure has just been hit so hard by this series of storms."

"We've got trees down. We've got mudslides. We have folks trapped in areas where we have major road failures," she continued. "And unfortunately, we're also seeing widespread power outages. Some folks on day six with no power with no estimated restoration time in sight."

RELATED: Bay Area storm: Over 16K customers without power, PG&E says

Jennifer Patefield is one of those residents dealing with both power outages and flooding. She lives in the low-lying Mill Court neighborhood of Guerneville. "Last night the rain hammered here pretty bad, and by 2 a.m. it was completely like this," Patefield said, pointing to flooding outside and around her home.

Many of the low-lying areas are already feeling the impact. As the Russian River continued to rise, the parking lot at Steelhead Beach was completely under water. The latest estimates show the Russian River could crest at 32" -- exactly the river's flood stage -- early Tuesday morning.

"We're Guernevillians here. We're used to no power and power outages and stuff," resident Sean Crueder said. "We're hanging pretty tough. There's a lot of support. Could be a lot worse."

Community centers have been set up around the county to provide resources -- blankets, batteries packs, and snacks -- to people dealing with power outages and flooding.

Wine country has been hit hard by recent storms but not in the way that you may think.

Growers we talked with say the vineyards should be fine with all the rain, but sadly some of the trees that have come down, were hundreds of years old.

The tree you see pictured above may look like just another downed tree but to those at V. Sattui Winery in Napa Valley, it is hardly just another tree.

"It's um, J.R. it's just been a really sad day, this particular tree has really been a part of our family," said Tom Davies who is the president of V. Sattui Winery.

Davies says the oak tree had been a highlight of the winery since they opened nearly 50 years ago. He says it had been standing in this spot for an estimated 275 years before coming down during the latest storm that brought rain and heavy winds.

"For those that visit the winery this majestic oak, I mean literally hundreds of thousands of people, have picnicked under this oak tree since the day we opened our doors in 1976. It's been a part of coming to V. Sattui and having a glass of wine and salami and cheese and enjoying a piece of the Napa Valley," said Davies.

Downed trees have been only part of the problem in Wine Country, flood waters are receding in most areas but intersections like the one in Sonoma County at Big Bend, are still flooded out.

"I can't go down there! They spent a lot of money on it and they didn't even think about the flooding," said one man.

"With the road closure it slows us down and it keeps people out of work all around us," said Heidi Hug who is a manager at the Carneros Deli.

Frustration is high, especially among those sitting in traffic just to get around the flooded areas.

Davies though is trying to stay optimistic with a wine glass half-full look at things.

"We've been looking to heaven for rain for some years and I guess we got it so. We were blessed that this thing came down at 4 a.m. and did not come down on a day when people were underneath it, it would have been devastating," said Davies.

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