Flood Information and Winter Storm Preparedness

Flooding is a potential risk, primarily from the San Francisquito Creek which runs along the City's Northern border, but also from the San Francisco Bay as well as Matadero, Adobe, and Barron Creeks between November and March each year.  The neighboring jurisdictions of the San Francisquito Creek are working to mitigate the flood risk to our communities, but where there is still a risk we should be prepared for it.   This page provides a number of steps and resources to help you prepare for a flood incident. 

What You Can Do To Prepare

Regardless of the seasonal forecast for winter weather, it pays to be prepared. The City of Palo Alto suggests a few things you can do to be ready for the very real possibility of flooding in our area.

Before the Storm

  • Sign up for automated notifications from the City of Palo Alto, visit alertscc.com
  • Visit and explore our Emergency Preparedness webpage.  
  • Know if your property is in a flood zone.  Lookup your address at the FEMA Floodmap Service Center
    • Regular homeowner's insurance policies don't cover flood damage. Call your insurance agent to purchase flood insurance to protect your home and contents. Find more information at www.Floodsmart.gov
  • Discuss emergency plans with your family. The Red Cross Flood Safety website provides more details of this and other topics. 
    • Know where and how you will evacuate if necessary.
    • Plan in advance to assist your neighbors or have them help you. Plan for those with access and functional needs, mobility problems or other disabilities.   
    • Register to receive Flood Warnings for the San Francisquito Creek from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. 
    • Add emergency numbers to your contacts on your cellphone or post emergency numbers near your home phone.  Important numbers are listed below.  
  • Store the following emergency supplies at work, home and in your car.
    • First Aid kit and essential medicines
    • Food (packaged, dried, canned or for special diets)
    • Cash (ATMs may not work)
    • Portable radio, flashlights and extra batteries (stored in watertight plastic bags).
    • Drinking water stored in closed, clean containers (one gallon per person per day for at least seven days)
  • Know where to pick up sandbags.  Between November and March sandbags are available at: Palo Alto Airport, Mitchell Park, & Rinconada Park. Palo Alto Sandbag Map(PDF, 1MB)

Additional Information

During the Storm

During a time of emergency, the City's primary duty is to ensure public safety. In the case of a flood, City resources are directed toward evacuating residents as necessary, responding to police, fire, and medical emergencies, maintaining utility services, providing traffic control, and pumping water to reduce flooding.    

  • Don't call 9-1-1 unless there is an imminent threat to life or other serious emergency.  
  • Stay Informed of our local conditions.
  • Follow one of our City of Palo Alto social media channels
  • Listen by radio (tune to KCBS 740 AM/106.9 FM or KZSU 90.1 FM)
  • Pay attention to the weather. Check the National Weather Service, Palo Alto Forecast Page for weather updates
  • View the water levels of Palo Alto creeks in real time (only active during the rainy season).
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio Online Stream if you don't have a radio.  
  • Make sure your family and pets are safe. Then, if time permits, move valuable household possessions off the floor.
  • Do not try to drive across a flooded road: "Turn Around, Don't Drown"-- you could become stranded or trapped.  If your car stalls in rising water, get out and get to safety. 
  • Do not enter areas blocked off by local authorities.  
  • Report downed power lines, leaking gas lines, or blocked storm drains to the City immediately (see numbers at the bottom of this page).
  • Never operate a generator indoors.   
  • Be ready to evacuate if directed by emergency personnel.
    • The city will make notifications using the mass notification system, Radio (90.1 FM) and Social Media
    • Information will include evacuations, routes, and evacuation center locations

After the Storm

  • If you have evacuated, return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.  Stay tuned to our local website, radio and TV stations for recovery information.   
  • Avoid disaster areas, flooded roads and washed out bridges
  • Use flashlights - NOT oil based lanterns or candles (items that emit a flame) to examine buildings; flammables may be present.
  • Avoid downed power lines and broken gas lines.
  • When you return home consider the following: 
    • Rapid Safety Inspections may be performed by the City - your home/building may have a Red, Yellow, or Green sign on it.  This indicates the safety of your home, pay attention to the instructions on the sign. 
    • Flooding brings risks of waterborne bacterial contaminations. Assume that everything is contaminated - wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself and keep your hands clean (soap/water or hand sanitizer); clean yourself as soon as possible after being in a flooded area.  
    • In certain areas, the flooding rains that accompany a storm can create pest problems. Be aware of potential pest problems in your area, such as mice, rats, insects or snakes that may have "come with the storm". 
    • Don't handle live electrical equipment in wet areas, if electrical equipment or appliances have been in contact with water, have them checked by City of Palo Alto Utilities before use. (650-496-6914
    • If you turned off your gas, do not turn gas back on yourself.  Call the City of Palo Alto Utilities for service (650-329-2579).
    • Do not use fresh foods or canned goods that have come into contact with floodwaters. Follow local instructions regarding the safety of drinking water.  If in doubt, boil or purify water before drinking.
    • Talk to your insurance company to understand your coverages.
    • Use a camera to record (pictures or videos) thoroughly any damage done to your home before making any repairs.
    • Before making building repairs, check with the City's Development Services Center to understand substantial damage determinations, and to get an emergency permit. 
    • Have professionals/licensed contractors inspect your home for damage and help in repairs - get at least three quotes for services, or follow the instructions from your insurance provider.

    See what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for your Safety After the Storm.

Additional Resources

  • Report blocked storm drains / sink holes / landslides / levee damage to Palo Alto Public Works
  • Report gas leaks, sewer spills to Palo Alto Utilities  Water, Gas, Wastewater Operations
  • Report power outages & electrical problems to Palo Alto Utilities Electric Operations