Bay Area storm: Flash flood warnings, tree injures child, thousands without power

SAN JOSE — A major storm known as an “atmospheric river” hammered the Bay Area on Thursday morning, trapping a child under a tree in Santa Cruz, wreaking havoc on freeways, knocking out power to thousands and delivering more than 3 inches of rain to some locations.

The storm tore through the North Bay first, where some of the highest locations recieved more than 4 inches of rain by mid-morning. As of 10 a.m. Santa Rosa has received 4.40 inches of rain and Novato 3.71 inches, downtown San Francisco received 1.24 inches of rain, Oakland .98 inches and San Jose .51 inches.

The deluge headed south by midmorning, downing power lines and interrupting service throughout the Bay Area. Just after 7 a.m., PGE reported more than 38,000 residents without power in San Francisco. The Peninsula had 3,000 customers without power, 2,700 were without power in the East Bay, 200 in the South Bay and 1,000 in the North Bay. Significant flash flooding was reported on Interstate 280 in San Mateo County.

Officials at Gateway School in Santa Cruz sent students home shortly after a large branch from a fir tree fell in the school’s playground and injured two students around 8:30 a.m. One student received minor scrapes, while another was taken to an area hospital for X-rays when his arm was trapped beneath the branch, said Sherri Helvie, assistant head of school.

“He’s fine. He’s at the hospital,” Helvie said of the injured student. “He’s conscious and talking, his mother is with him. We expect him to be fine.”

Along the Peninsula, the San Bruno BART station was temporarily closed because of flooding and the Montgomery station in downtown San Francisco was shuttered due to a power outage that occurred shortly after 7:35 a.m.

As of 10:30 a.m., BART officials said trains were experiencing a 10-15 minute systemwide delay and the Montgomery Street station remained closed.

In Oakland, 32-year-old Maruf Noyoft emerged from a turnstile at the 19th Street station wearing his black rain jacket with the hood up and his umbrella hooked to his pants pocket.

“I didn’t expect my train to be on time but it was,” said Noyoft who commutes daily from El Cerrito to Oakland and said he grabbed a later train than normal due to the rain.

The storm also temporarily knocked sports radio station KNBR off the air during their morning talk show.

Gusty winds were recorded in several locations. In Marin County, winds of 63 mph were reported in Woodacre — 10 mph short of hurricane-force — and the weather service also reported a wind gust of 38 mph at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County.

Even before the heaviest part of the storm reached the East Bay, wind knocked down trees and in one instance, started a small fire. San Ramon Valley Fire crews put out a tree fire caused by downed power lines on Via Larga, a road in Alamo, that started around 5 a.m., according to a dispatcher.

The California Highway Patrol reported that a tree fell and blocked both lanes on Foothill Road at Verona Road near Foothill High School in Pleasanton, and that another tree fell and blocked the eastbound lane of Stone Valley Road at Alamo Glen Drive in Alamo.

In the North Bay, a Sig-alert was issued for northbound Highway 101 in Petaluma because of flooding just before 6 a.m. The CHP said all northbound lanes of the highway were blocked near the Arata Lane off-ramp. And emergency flash-flooding alerts from the National Weather Service were sent by text and television broadcast to residents around the region as the storm swept through the region.

In San Jose, a massive tree fell onto a home on Boxwood Drive and smashed a midsize truck in the driveway, according to the fire department.

The large pin oak, estimated by a neighbor to be 200 years old, came down at about 7 a.m. The tree was located in the parking strip and fell directly onto the house. The tree’s branches are wider than the length of the front yard.

Bob Basili, a neighbor, said was home when he heard a boom early in the morning.

“It was a magnificent tree,” Basili said. “It was like a landmark for the neighborhood.”

A city arborist, as well as clean up crews, responded to deal with the downed tree.

The storm raises the risk level for those already the most vulnerable — the homeless. Ray Bramson, the city of San Jose’s homeless response manager, said more than 1,200 people live along the Los Gatos and Coyote creeks and the Guadalupe River. City-funded outreach workers spent Wednesday urging homeless to go to shelters ahead of the rains.

As of midmorning Thursday, there were no reports of homeless needed rescue.

“We’re very concerned because there are so many people living next to creeks that are going to be flooding,” Bramson said.

HomeFirst’s Boccardo Reception Center, which can house 250 people at the shelter, expanded its daytime hours Thursday so homeless had someplace to go during the storm.

Bramson added that the severe rains shows why the city had to close down “the Jungle” encampment last week. That site was next to the Coyote.

“We had to get people out of there,” he said. “There could be massive flooding where people were just living.”

Uncharacteristically light traffic was reported on the Bay Bridge and freeways around the region Thursday morning, as commuters apparently stayed home to avoid the deluge.

Fire and city maintenance crews began responding to a slew of calls in Fremont related to clogged storm drains, downed trees, vehicles stuck in water and traffic collisions about 7 a.m.

Fremont’s first report of flooding came around 9:15 a.m., when a vehicle got stuck in rising water on Paseo Padre Parkway near Thornton Avenue. Police also responded to calls reporting several fallen trees, poles and live wires in Fremont roadways, said spokeswoman Geneva Bosques.

Niles Canyon Road was open, but motorist should be wary of boulders that have fallen onto the roadway, Bosques said.

A single-car hit-and-run accident on Mission Boulevard near Nursery Avenue, knocked over a streetlight pole and electrical wires in the Niles district, Bosques said. A streetpole and wires also were blocking the road on 4900 Mattos Drive in Fremont.

Wind knocked down a tree and wires in the 39600 block of Lahana Way in the city’s 28 Palms neighborhood, Bosques said. Trees also were blocking the entrance to Motel 6, at 34047 Fremont Blvd.; the street in the 3600 block of Adams Avenue; and the downtown intersection of Kearney and Liberty streets.

The anticipated storm prompted ferries to cancel runs across the bay early Thursday. Alameda and Oakland ferry departures from 6:10 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., to the S.F. Ferry Building. and Pier 41, were canceled. An advisory is expected at 7:30 a.m. on whether remaining departures would be canceled, according to the San Francisco Bay Ferry website.

In addition, the Harbor Bay Ferry canceled runs to and from San Francisco, with an update expected at 2 p.m. on whether service would resume.

The South San Francisco Ferry service to and from Alameda and Oakland was also canceled, with an update expected at 2 p.m.

By midmorning, San Francisco International Airport reported that 235 flights had been canceled because of the storm. There were no delays at that time, but the airport expected delays during the course of the storm. There were no issues at San Jose and Oakland airports as of 6:15 a.m.

Updated information on ferry service can be found at

Staff writers Mark Emmons, Natalie Neysa Alund, Rick Hurd, Santa Cruz Sentinel writers Jondi Gomz and Shmuel Thaler contributed to this report. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him at

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