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Live storm blog: Downed trees everywhere, Muni rerouting numerous lines as rain set to resume this evening

A car is stuck in a flooded underpass of Highway 580 on Webster St. at 36 St. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023 in Oakland, Calif. The storm is expected to be one of the largest the region has experienced in decades and may cause major flooding, downed trees and major traffic congestion. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

9:01 p.m. | SF Unified To Open Thursday, Numerous Other Districts Shutter

Citing the likelihood of improved weather conditions by the morning, San Francisco public schools will open district-wide on Thursday, Jan. 5. Around the Bay Area, more than 20 districts, which collectively serve more than 50,000 students, are set to close. Most are located in Sonoma and San Mateo counties.

8:41 p.m. | 24-Hour Rainfall Totals Show Which Areas Got Soaked

While most of the effects of the first half of Wednesday’s bomb cyclone came from wind, rainfall totals across the Bay Area are considerable. The National Weather Service reported that, in the last 24 hours, San Francisco has received 0.83 inches of rain, while SFO got a little more (0.96 inches).

Parts of Oakland received well over an inch, while most of the South Bay got under an inch. As is typically the case, coastal summits recorded the highest totals, with some parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains getting nearly three inches so far. More rain is expected tonight.

7:58 p.m. | South San Francisco Gas Station Collapses

A Valero station at King Drive and Callan Boulevard in South San Francisco near the Daly City border has collapsed due to high winds. KTVU reported that the canopy had lost half its supports, falling onto two fuel pumps. No injuries were reported.

7:53 p.m. | BART’s Yellow Line Has Major Delays in the East Bay

Downed trees are causing widespread chaos across the region, and BART is currently single-tracking trains on the Antioch-SFO (Yellow) line between Concord and Pleasant Hill stations. Both directions of travel are affected.

This is in addition to other delays that BART has been experiencing through most of the day.

7:21 p.m. | Major Thoroughfare to Golden Gate Bridge Largely Blocked by Downed Tree

Park Presidio Boulevard, which is technically Highway 1 between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, is almost entirely blocked by a downed tree at the intersection with Lake Street in the Richmond. All southbound lanes and two of the three northbound lanes are impassable, effectively closing this major thoroughfare leading to and from the Golden Gate Bridge.

6:59 p.m. | Russian River Communities Under Evacuation Order, River Expected To Flood

Sonoma County officials have urged residents along the Russian River from Healdsburg to Jenner to evacuate.

Meanwhile, power is out in Downtown Guerneville, an unincorporated resort community on the river. The river—which rose 45 feet above its banks as recently as 2019, severely damaging much of the town—is expected to reach 32 feet early this evening, which the National Weather Service considers the beginning of flood stage. It will then fall before rising again over the weekend.

6:47 p.m. | Downed Trees Causing Widespread Headaches for Muni

High winds have toppled trees across San Francisco as the bomb cyclone’s assault continues, and the SFMTA has been forced to re-route numerous Muni lines, including some heavily traveled buses like the 14-Mission.

A downed tree at 18th Street was causing buses to find alternate routes, while in Glen Park, another tree at Bosworth Boulevard and Diamond streets was affecting the 23-Monterey, 52-Teresita and 44-O’Shaughnessy lines.

Near West Portal, the 23-Monterey was shut down and the outbound M-Oceanview and K-Ingleside trains were forced to return Downtown as the result of a train out of service, with shuttle buses delivering riders to their destinations.

6:34 p.m. | Tens of Thousands Without Power in SF, Daly City

PG&E has reported that approximately 76,000 customers are without power across the Bay Area. (“Customers” in utility parlance refers to single ratepayers, not individual people.) In San Francisco, the latest outage map reveals clusters of outages in Visitacion Valley, in the residential neighborhoods surrounding Mount Davidson and in the central Mission District.

However, those pockets are considerably smaller than the much larger area currently without electricity on the Peninsula, including vast swaths of Daly City and South San Francisco.

6:22 p.m. | Trapped Family Rescued in Civic Center

The San Francisco Fire Department reported that the San Francisco Police Department successfully rescued a family in Civic Center when a downed tree fell on their car on the 100 block of Larkin Street. As the SFFD tweet reveals, it was a very large street tree—which also landed directly on the only bike chained to an entire row of bike racks.

6:15 p.m. | NWS Upgrades to Flood Warning

The National Weather Service swapped its previous flood advisory for a flood warning in low-lying and poor drainage areas. Rivers or streams may be elevated and driving into flooded roads is inadvisable, the agency warned in a bulletin before 6 p.m.

An advisory is meant for general awareness while a warning urges action.

Affected cities include: Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Fremont, Hayward, Sunnyvale, Concord, Santa Clara, Richmond, Antioch, San Leandro, Livermore, Redwood City, Mountain View, Alameda, San Ramon, Union City, Milpitas and Palo Alto.

6:05 p.m. | SFO Calm Amid Storm

Intensifying rain and wind has backed up flights at SF International Airport, where fliers report hourslong delays and turbulent arrivals.

But as the storm batters down on the Bay, travelers currently at SFO say the airport feels no busier than usual, though delays and cancelations may continue into the night as the storm progresses.

6 p.m. | Was SF Warned About NYE Storm?

City officials claimed they were misled into believing that the New Year’s Eve rains wouldn’t be so bad, but forecasters were emailing daily briefings to City Hall.

Read our exclusive coverage.

5:45 p.m. | Car Stuck in Oakland

Earlier today, our photographer captured this stunning video of two cars stuck in a flooded underpass of Highway 580 on Webster and 36th streets in Oakland.

5:45 p.m. | Santa Clara Closes Roads

Because of closures due to mudslides, flooding and downed trees, the county of Santa Clara has closed approximately eight roads, including sections of Calaveras Road and Mines Road, with road maintenance crews working to reopen closures.

5:30 p.m. | What’s an ‘Atmospheric River,’ Anyway?

As you probably know by now, the Bay Area is currently being pounded by an “atmospheric river” of massive intensity. It’s not the first of the season, nor is it likely to be the last. These “rivers in the sky” can be thousands of miles long and contain enormous amounts of water.

So—what are they anyways? We break it down in two minutes.

5:15 p.m. | Watch the Mayor Live

Mayor London Breed warned residents that floods, power outages, downed trees and mudslides were inevitable as the full force of the storm hits this evening.

She said that 911 was overwhelmed with calls and said it should be “used as a tool for emergency situations involving life or death only.”

Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the Department of Emergency Management, said that “everything was fine until about an hour ago,” when the full force of the storm hit.

She advised residents to keep a flashlight with batteries handy, store water, and check on neighbors, friends and family.

5 p.m. | Pervasive Power Outages

As winds and the downpour begin to pick up, parts of Colma and Daly City are now reporting power outages affecting thousands of residents. Power is also out for residents along the San Mateo County coast north and south of Half Moon Bay and across the Santa Cruz Mountains.

In San Francisco, flickering lights were reported in West Portal and the Inner Sunset.

Retail businesses around the Haight and NoPa neighborhoods, such as Indigo Vintage and Rare Device, are prepared. Many alerted patrons through window signage that they are temporarily closed to ensure safety during the extreme weather, and some also applied sandbags for additional caution in the case of flooding.

4:45 p.m. | Update Coming From the Mayor

Mayor London Breed will provide an update on the storm at 5:15 p.m., providing information on impact, response and operations. Tune into the live feed below.

4:35 p.m. | Here It Comes!

Just after 4 p.m., a special weather statement was issued for San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont, which will be in effect until 5:15 p.m. today. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph are expected and could knock down tree limbs and displace unsecured objects.

The National Weather Service tweeted just before 4:30 p.m. that heavy rain is now entering the Bay Area. The rain was indeed coming down fast and furious throughout San Francisco and Oakland.

Wind guests of up to 85 mph were reported in Marin County.

3:26 p.m. | Alameda County and Santa Cruz County Urge Some Residents To Evacuate

Evacuation orders have been issued in parts of Alameda County and Santa Cruz County ahead of the storm.

Evacuation orders in Alameda County are restricted to Kilkare Road, Niles Canyon Road and Palomares Road. The county also warned residents that emergency vehicles may not be able to enter those areas during the storm and that power outages may happen, too.

Orders to immediately evacuate due to flooding have been issued in nearly two dozen areas throughout Santa Cruz, particularly in the southwest near the coast and in the county’s southeast, due to imminent flooding that evacuation orders say presents an “immediate threat to life.”

Alameda County urges residents of the red zone to evacuate. | Courtesy photo

There are roughly four dozen other areas throughout the north-central areas of the county where residents have been warned to evacuate, especially if they have pets or livestock.

Warnings say that areas of the “burn scar” from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020 are at higher risk of mudslides during the incoming storm.

To find out if you live in an area being evacuated, you can look up your address here.

2:55 p.m. | Mobile Home Park Evacuated

San Mateo County has evacuated a mobile home park with high flood risk and housed 125 people in shelter rooms, according to County Executive Officer Mike Callagy.

The county has secured 160 shelter rooms and housed 125 people, mostly from the evacuated mobile home park. There is still room availability, and the county has been working around the clock for days to respond to the storms, Callagy said at a 2 p.m. media briefing.

As of yet, the county has not seen major damage, but “we’re expecting flooding, debris flows and landslides,” Callagy said.

2:45 p.m. | San Francisco’s Stormy Past

A motorized cable car acts as a taxi during a flood following a storm in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 1952. | San Francisco History Center/San Francisco Public Library

Archival photos from the 1930s to the 1950s show San Franciscans wading through flooded streets, crowds of umbrellas and children playing in rainwater during past storms that left the city drenched.

See photos here.

2:30 p.m. | Businesses Close Early

Businesses across the Bay Area temporarily closed on Wednesday in preparation for expected severe storms and potential flooding. Noting safety concerns, several businesses posted on social media about their preemptive closures, including San Francisco’s Bar Crudo, Cafe Suspiro, Convivium Enoteca, Handroll Project, Fayes Video, Under the Sea, YMCA of San Francisco, Outta Sight, the Rite Spot and many others.

Read more here.

1:50 p.m. | San Jose Says Prepare for Evacuation

The city of San Jose told residents to be ready to evacuate if needed and to prepare a travel bag filled with basic necessities, such as spare clothing, medicine and personal documents. The storm marks an early test for San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, who just assumed office this week.

1:30 p.m. | More Sandbags Available

San Franciscans pick up sandbags again now that the city re-upped the supply at its operations yard at Marin and Kansas streets.

1:20 p.m. | Sign Up for Emergency Alerts

Local updates about flooding, downed trees, road closures and other storm impacts are available throughout the Bay Area. You can sign up for the alerts in the counties of Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Santa Clara and Sonoma.

1:10 p.m. | North Bay Braces for Impact

The storm has North Bay bracing for impact with Sonoma County announcing an emergency proclamation that frees up more resources for the effort.

As for Marin and Napa counties, both issued warnings about flooding, strong wind and power outages.

1 p.m. | CHP Beefs Up Patrols

Most of the roadway flooding around the Bay Area happened early Wednesday morning, but the California Highway Patrol cautioned drivers to brace for strong winds that lasted well into the afternoon.

The wind warnings were issued for the Altamont Pass to Livermore as well as the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges.

Flooding reported earlier in the day held up traffic throughout the Bay Area, from Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties and all the way up to Napa. CHP doesn’t plan to close any roads, a spokesperson told The Standard, but it will assign extra patrols to err on the safe side.

12:50 p.m. | Transit Disruptions

San Francisco’s F-Market streetcar line and Cable Car routes are now being replaced by bus routes as the 1 and 33 buses lag because of downed overhead lines, according to a Tweet from SFMTA Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin.

BART is reporting 20-minute systemwide delays and limited service on the Green Line between Berryessa and Daly City as well as on the Red Line toward Millbrae. Officials advise transferring.

Meanwhile, some Caltrain routes shifted to single-track service.

12:45 p.m. | Watch Live Storm Coverage

The Standard’s media partners at KGO-TV/ABC7 News are broadcasting live coverage as the storm picks up intensity across the Bay.

Watch it here:

12:30 p.m. | When Should You Call 911?

SF’s fire and emergency officials urged residents to call 911 only for life-threatening situations and 311 for all other issues, including reports of flooding or power outages.

“We know that it’s more than our storm systems can handle,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, who heads the Department of Emergency Management.

Mayor Breed echoed her word of caution: “Please use 911 wisely. We want to make sure that 911 is used as a life-or-death tool only.”

12:20 p.m. | Hungry Shoppers at Gus’s

While Haight Street is mostly empty, those who are out have flocked to Gus’s Community Market during the storm’s slow start this afternoon. A line of people spanned from the front of the store to its back wall and beyond at times.

11:30 a.m. | California Declares State of Emergency

California has issued a State of Emergency due to the storm sweeping through the state. This declaration allows the state to respond quickly as the storm develops and support various regions with their responses and recovery efforts.

11:05 a.m. | Glass Falling in SF

Winds are picking up, and glass is falling in San Francisco. That’s according to Lyanne Melendez, a reporter with our media partner KGO-TV/ABC7 News. Melendez witnessed broken glass falling from the Fox Plaza Building in Downtown and police closing off a section of Polk and Market streets.

“A very scary and unusual situation, just when you think you’ve seen it all here in San Francisco,” said Melendez.

The San Francisco Fire Department has confirmed the event. It says it doesn’t know yet if the event was wind-related, but says it’s “highly possible.”

SFFD spokesperson Jonathan Baxter said that the fire department received reports of falling chunks of glass at 10:05 a.m. and responded four minutes later. The fire department removed the broken window on the 28th floor, and there is no longer any falling glass, according to Baxter.

11 a.m. | Cable Car Disruptions

The Powell/Hyde Cable Car Line in San Francisco is blocked in both directions by a downed tree near Jackson and Hyde streets. SFMTA said workers are on the scene and working to clear the blockage as of 10:55 a.m.

Meanwhile, a bus has been put into service to help provide Powell/Hyde Line service.

10:45 a.m. | SF Still Out of Sandbags

Cars queue for free sandbags distributed by San Francisco Public Works Department on Wednesday morning. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Many were excited about a supposed 12 p.m. drop of more sandbags, but that isn’t to be. San Francisco Public Works said Wednesday that “noon availability may be pushed back” and that the city’s “supply is depleted.”

Luckily, those in need can check some of these stores for sandbags as well.

10:30 a.m. | Residents Weigh A.M. Commute

San Francisco tech workers who commute to the South Bay are faced with a decision today: Go to work during the storm’s morning lull or stay home in anticipation of afternoon winds and rain. Southbound and northbound U.S. Highway 101 closed on Dec. 31 due to flooding from the first storm, and the second has the potential to do the same.

According to employees at both Apple and Google, shuttle buses between San Francisco and various tech campuses in Cupertino and Menlo Park are running at full capacity. Neither company has issued a stay-at-home request.

The good news? Most tech companies have cushy, flexible work-from-home policies.

“I just decided to work from home today because I was worried that the freeway was going to flood,” said one Google employee based in San Francisco.

10:15 a.m. | Update on San Jose Encampments

A camp of unhoused San Jose residents sits above the rushing waters of the Guadalupe River near Downtown San Jose on Wednesday. | Nick Veronin/The Standard

On Tuesday, San Jose officials ordered locals camping near city waterways to pull up stakes and head to higher ground in a mandatory evacuation.

However, as of Wednesday morning, numerous encampments were observed near San Jose’s Guadalupe River and along Coyote Creek.

At mid-morning, most tents and makeshift structures lining the waterways were well above the level of the current, though the worst of the storm is expected to land beginning at 2 p.m. today.

10 a.m. | It’s Getting Windy Out There

The winds are starting to ramp up, according to ABC7’s Drew Tuma.

The meteorologist said that winds were already up to 40 miles per hour in Oakland and up to 50 mph on the coast, with gusts expecting to gain strengthen into the afternoon and evening.

9:30 a.m. | An Update on Schools

San Francisco public schools are open until further notice. South San Francisco Unified School District, however, canceled after-school activities on Wednesday and plans to cancel classes on Thursday, when the storm is expected to continue with high winds.

A handful of other schools in San Mateo County like those in Millbrae, Pacifica, San Bruno and Portola Valley similarly plan to end early or cancel after-school activities and close on Thursday. As is true for some other schools and districts, the storm happens to coincide with winter break for San Jose Unified.

9:20 a.m. | More BART Delays

BART announced system-wide delays of up to 20 minutes, up from 10 minutes earlier this morning.

8:35 a.m. | Addressing the Homeless

Tents from a homeless encampment on Erie Street on Wednesday | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

San Francisco city workers from the police department, fire department and the Department of Emergency Management are on Erie Street in SoMa asking people to pack up their tents and offering transport to shelter at about 10 a.m. A worker from the Department of Emergency Management said that it is “not trying to force people to totally move” because of the rain.

Police address people in tents on Erie Street. | David Sjostedt/The Standard

Yesterday, The Standard reported that though San Francisco is expanding its shelter capacity given the storm, the system remains thousands of beds short.

7:45 a.m. | Tips for Drivers

Major accidents are expected throughout the Bay Area this afternoon due to worsening storm conditions. AAA provided these tips for those who must hit the road, according to ABC7’s reporting:

  • Drive slowly.
  • Keep your distance from other cars.
  • Stick to the center lanes.
  • Do not drive through standing water.
  • Remember to treat any non-working traffic light as a four-way stop.

7:30 a.m. | Traffic Issues

Conditions were dicey on roadways including parts of Interstates 880 and 680 and U.S. Highway 101 early Wednesday morning.

There is flooding on part of northbound 880 in Oakland before 98th Avenue near the Coliseum with water of up to 3 feet reported on the shoulder, ABC7 reported.

Southbound 680 in Walnut Creek just north of South Main Street is also experiencing flooding.

A high-wind advisory is in effect at the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

In Fremont, there is also slow traffic due to flooding from the heavy rains on both eastbound and westbound Highway 84.

7 a.m. | Transit Delays

BART is reporting system-wide delays of up to 10 minutes, and Caltrain is experiencing issues as well. Some roadways are already treacherous, and experts warn that drivers should try and stay off the roads this afternoon, when conditions are expected to intensify. We’ll keep you updated on transit news here.

6:45 a.m. | No More Sandbags

Audette Bennett and her dog Pablo wait for free sandbags distributed by the San Francisco Public Works Department on Wednesday morning. The department ran out of sandbags and was expecting another delivery, but it was unclear when it would arrive. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

San Francisco Public Works, which manages the city’s streets and buildings, announced that it was out of sandbags by early morning.

“Sandbag update: We do not have any sandbags available at this time to give out but expect new supply to be available today. Timing TBD. We will update folks when we have more information,” the organization tweeted.

6:20 a.m. | Worst To Come This Afternoon

Meteorologists warned that though the storm will appear to lighten for a few hours this morning and early afternoon, starting around 2 p.m. things will begin to intensify, with the threat of flooding high and more heavy rains and strong winds.

Downed power lines and mud slides are a huge concern, and experts advise staying off the roads between 2 to 9 p.m.

5:45 a.m. | 20- to 30-foot Waves Expected

Bay Area and Central California beaches may have breaking waves as high was 30 feet, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned early Wednesday, saying that a High Surf Warning will go into effect on Thursday morning.

“A very large incoming westerly swell will create significant beach hazards on Thursday,” NWS tweeted. “Stay well back from the ocean!”

Major flooding is also expected at the Russian River near Guerneville and other rivers throughout Northern California, the NWS warned.

4:15 a.m. | Will SF Be More Prepared This Time Around?

That’s the question many small business owners and residents asked themselves this week as they made repairs to damages caused by a surprise, worse-than-expected storm on Dec. 31.

“It was just everyone for themselves. Where was the city?” said James Lok on Tuesday, who operates Ed Arroyo Auto Body in the Mission.

But in a speech yesterday, Mayor Breed promised that the city “will be prepared.”

4 a.m. | ‘Atmospheric River’ Begins Bay Area Pummel

The Bay Area has been bracing for a deluge of rain that could prove deadly—and now that storm has arrived.

Our team of reporters, photographers and videographers is spread out across the Bay to bring you the latest on the storm. We’ll be speaking with small businesses impacted by the flooding, interviewing homeowners experiencing power outages, following commuters as they contend with wet roads and checking in with officials throughout the day on how residents can remain safe and dry. Follow along.

Staff contributors include David Sjostedt, Sarah Wright, Sophie Bearman, Ida Mojadad, Nick Veronin, Heather Grossmann, Liz Lindqwister, Morgan Ellis, Camille Cohen, Jonah Lamb, Han Li, Garrett Leahy and Peter-Astrid Kane.

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