Above-average December rain causes local flooding

Photo By: Courtesy of Linda Wood
Photo Courtesy Of Linda Wood

Residents of St. Charles Court in Los Altos wade through the nearly knee-deep water after December storms flooded their neighborhood. Public Works Department officials will investigate why drains in the area failed to work.

Although Los Altos survived the Mayan apocalypse predicted for Dec. 21, the city’s record-breaking single-day rainfall Dec. 23 left some local residents wading and waiting.

“The city was inundated with emergencies,” noted Linda Wood in an email account of the experience to the Town Crier. “It caused neighbors to initiate self help.”

Wood wrote that her neighbors on St. Charles Court waited several hours before battling knee-high water to clear drains blocked by floating debris and boulders. As 1.52 inches of precipitation fell in a matter of a few hours, police and emergency workers were stretched thin, scattering across the city to respond to reported emergencies.

The Los Altos Police Department received more than 40 calls about blocked storm drains and flooding across Los Altos from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Dec. 23.

According to Public Works Director Jim Gustafson, the water district reported that the intensity of the storm produced more rain on that date than the area had experienced since 1988.

In addition to the crew of 10 city staff called in to respond to the onslaught of storm-related problems, local fire personnel were dispatched to various locations to clean drain outlets and control water pooling.

Gustafson said trouble spots included Deodara Drive, where water rose up to 1 foot deep as residents scurried to relocate vehicles in the path of rising water. The Woodland Branch Library closed Dec. 23 as standing water crept from the parking lot into the building.

“It really could have been a lot worse,” said community librarian Jane Cronkhite. “We’re really glad that we weren’t open.”

Although the library faced flooding 15 years ago, according to Cronkhite’s colleagues at the branch, last month’s damage was more extensive. To ensure that there would be no lingering health or safety hazards, the branch remained closed through Jan. 5 for carpet cleaning and insulation repair.

The Public Works Department plans to investigate why drains failed near the Woodland Branch Library and in other neighborhoods.

“We’re going to videotape the storm drains there to see what type of blockage is occurring,” Gustafson said. “Some areas are supposed to drain to Foothill Expressway, but it looks like water was overflowing the edge and going onto Grant Road.”

As February, the peak month for precipitation in the Los Altos area, approaches, residents may want to keep contact information for city personnel and law enforcement accessible should major storms occur.

Gustafson encouraged residents to collect debris regularly in their yards and to remove loose items that might clog the flow of drain inlets from exterior landscaping – especially when large storms are forecast.

“We don’t recommend that (residents) jump into flood water,” he said.

Los Altos residents who find themselves in a dangerous situation due to stormy weather should call 911 or the Los Altos Police Department at 947-2770.

Residents of Los Altos Hills should contact city staff at 941-7222 during business hours or the Santa Clara County Department of Roads and Airports after hours at (408) 299-3233.

Self-service sandbag stations are located at the Municipal Service Center, 707 Fremont Ave. in Los Altos, and at the Corporation Yard, 27500 Purissima Road in Los Altos Hills.

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