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City Implements Measures to Protect Community from Flooding this Upcoming Storm Season

City Implements Measures to Protect Community from Flooding this Upcoming Storm Season

NEW INFORMATION:  In order to assist residents with preparation for Thursday’s winter storm, the City has established a new temporary sandbag station at the corner of Palo Alto Avenue and Chaucer Street.

During Thursday's storm, if a basement floods and a furnace is underwater, please turn off the furnace at the appliance valve. If a furnace does not have an accessible shutoff valve, contact the City Utilities Dispatch at (650) 329-2579. Our trained staff will be able to turn off the furnace for you. After a furnace or other gas service is off, never relight the pilot light yourself. City technicians will do this free of charge after running a series of safety tests. Contact Utilities Dispatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Depending on the amount of rainfall, the regional water quality control plant can become overwhelmed during a storm event. Rain, runoff and ground water can flow into the sewer system through manholes' cover and pipe joints, thus impacting the capacity of the sewer lines and causing overflows. In the event of a heavy rain, residents can help to prevent sewer overflows by cutting down on water usage like washing clothes, showering, running a dishwasher, etc.

Although California is in the midst of a severe drought, recent storms are a reminder that it is always good to be prepared for inclement weather. This season, the City of Palo Alto has taken numerous steps to protect the community from heavy rainfall and flooding, particularly along the San Francisquito Creek.

The City's Public Works Department, Utilities Department, and Public Safety (Police, Fire, and Office of Emergency Services), as well as Community Services and other departments, have all not only increased their levels of preparation and prevention activities, but have also developed improved response and recovery protocols. During severe weather, staff will regularly monitor rainfall patterns, water levels in  San Francisquito Creek and other local streams, monitor and clear roadways blocked by downed trees or debris, inspect and maintain storm drains and sewers, and plan for other possible contingencies, such as landslides in the Foothills.

Since San Francisquito Creek borders a number of jurisdictions and involves both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the City has been fostering inter-agency cooperation and coordination among various agencies, including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Menlo Park Fire District, and the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. 

While improving government response is important, residents, businesses, and other community members are strongly encouraged to take steps now to prepare for winter storms, flooding, and other severe weather by following the steps posted here

Since flooding can occur without much warning, community members wanting to monitor creek levels can view real-time data via the Creek Monitor Page on the City’s website. However, such information is not predictive. Subject matter experts (City staff and partner agencies) monitor not only creek water levels, but atmospheric conditions and other factors that could indicate possible flooding problems. Note: If you see something concerning on the Creek Monitor Page, do NOT call 9-1-1.

Well before such problems arise, especially if your home or facility is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, is the time to get sand bags from one of the three sand bag stations located in Palo Alto: at the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) site at the Palo Alto Airport (in the parking area near the Terminal Building); at Mitchell Park next to the Little League Field; and at the Rinconada Park tennis courts on Hopkins Avenue at Newell Road.

Additionally, the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services (OES) offers opportunities for members to become Emergency Services Volunteers, with numerous roles, including Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC), Amateur Radio Operator, and other functions described here.

Heavy rainfall that could result in flooding of low lying and poorly drained areas, as well as rapid rises on area streams and creeks, is expected in the area on Thursday, Dec. 11 and Friday, Dec. 12. For real-time storm updates, follow the City of Palo Alto Police Department on Facebook and Twitter at

Last Updated: December 8, 2014