Crews from East Palo Alto and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built sandbag walls three feet high and hundreds of yards wide to keep rising waters out of hundreds of neighborhoods as atmospheric river storms threatened the city. I made it
A temporary fix helped prevent mushroom creeks from flooding communities of mostly low-income renters again.
“The silver lining is that it was certainly a wake-up call,” Lopez said. “A few pounds of sand separate us from a flooded Silicon Valley parking lot.
Early estimates by the city and community groups put the floods at more than $100,000 in damage. This includes cars, tools, and other personal items stored in trunks and low-lying garages. Her Marisela Ramos, head of the East Palo Alto West Side Neighborhood Committee, organizes residents seeking outside help to help pay for damages.
“The car was a means of transportation to get to work and to earn money to pay the rent for food for the children,” she said. is so difficult that they basically lost everything.”
She said most of the residents do not have flood insurance and are struggling to get assistance. Ramos questions whether the floods amounted to negligence by the city, landlords, or authorities controlling the streams.
“Why didn’t they act earlier to prevent this?” she asked. “This has happened before. So why didn’t they put protection by the creek before the storm?”
East Palo Alto has been flooded many times over the years. In 1998, record-breaking floods hit her 1,700 properties, causing more than $28 million in damage.
The city has applied for a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to compensate for the damage, but the process has been slow.
Homeowners and renters in San Mateo County who suffer storm damage or loss can apply for federal disaster assistance, which includes payment for temporary housing, transportation, childcare, and moving costs. The deadline to apply for assistance is March 15, 2023.
“This will be of great help to individuals and business owners who suffered losses during the severe storms that brought 13 inches of rain to the county in December and January,” said the US Congressman representing East Palo Alto. Kevin Marin said in a release. .
Climate change means a wet future
Atmospheric river storms — giant storms that form over the ocean and flow inland — are only getting more intense, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The wettest winter storms could be about 30% wetter by mid-century.
“Precipitation will be more intense, which is important because flash floods are possible,” said study co-author Ruby Leon, a climate scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. ‘ said.
She added that atmospheric river storms will not only flood small streams, but will challenge the capabilities of larger streams and rivers, especially if infrastructure such as levees, highways and bridges surround them. Waterways that once spanned vast swamplands are now contained within controlled areas with limited capacity. Larger storms are expected to bring in more water than they can contain.
“The information we used before to design our infrastructure may no longer be relevant. We need to incorporate the knowledge we have now about how the future will change,” she said. rice field.
New Call to Action for East Palo Alto
East Palo Alto City Councilman Ruben Abrica survived the 1998 storm.
He said strengthening the flood protection system in this community of more than 90 percent people of color is worth the investment.
“Climate change affects everyone, but the most vulnerable communities are those that will suffer the most unless we stand together,” he said.
Reducing the risk of flooding along this meandering waterway is something Margaret Bruce ponders daily as Executive Director of the San Francisco Creek Joint Authority.
“We know we can never eliminate the risk of flooding,” she said. “You can no longer plan the future while looking in the rearview mirror. But it is very difficult to look ahead.”
Her group is leading a stream restoration project from the San Francisco Bay to the mouth of the Searsville Dam.
A project has multiple parts. The agency said he completed his first stretch in 2019. This should protect more than 1,700 facilities from the Bay to U.S. Route 101 from creek flooding and 3 feet of sea level rise during the 1-in-100-year spring tide. All the work will protect the first section from rising tides by 10 feet when compared to today’s high tide.
The second reach, Route 101 to Pope Chaucer Bridge, is a recently flooded section along the East Palo Alto-Palo Alto-Menlo Park boundary. The plan is to widen the channel and replace the bridge with a new one to allow more water to pass under it and protect the community from his once-in-a-century flood.
It is tentatively scheduled for completion between 2024 and 2026.
One big problem in completing a project is how to finance it. Bruce said it would cost him at least $50 million to restore about a mile of the creek. State or federal infrastructure dollars can help in this effort. Otherwise, the partners that make up the Agency – East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara Valley Waters – are working toward completion.
The third leg, the remaining catchment from the recently flooded area to the Searsville Dam, is in its very formation stage. Officials want to create a reservoir along the upper reaches of the stream to store water during storms.
“I don’t know yet if it’s completely feasible,” says Bruce. “It’s so disruptive, costly and technically challenging that it might make you want to think twice. But we’re looking at it.”
Further upstream on Lake Searsville, Stanford University is planning a project to rebuild a stream that flows from the lake. Because the reservoir is slowly filling with soil, it can only hold about 10% of its original capacity.
The university that owns the dam wants to increase its storage capacity by creating a tunnel gate at its base and channeling it to other streams away from the lake, channeling sediment into San Francisquito Creek and then into the bay. I think. However, this is only operational after the downstream reach is finished.
The project frees up reservoirs to hold more water during storms, and could be released after streams recede. The state is reviewing its design and environmental impact analysis.
“Instead of having the creek as the boundary, the creek became the link between the county and these three cities,” Bruce said.
The reconstruction of embankments along the lower part of the channel and the restoration of the creek greatly reduced the damage that could have occurred in this series of atmospheric rivers.
Still, Flood “puts all of us in the spotlight to find the money somehow, even if we have to beg the president or talk to the governor… saying it’s your problem.” Please, because it condemns poor communities to floods.
Palo Alto and Menlo Park are playing an active role in regenerating streams. Recent storms have flooded parts of Menlo Park, said Nikki Nagaya, deputy city administrator.
“We’ve seen creek levels spike across the lower section of Menlo Park, and we’ve seen overflow in that area as well,” she said.
The recent storms are a harbinger of what will happen in a warming world, but Hase said he wasn’t sure the project could speed up.
“Hopefully I think it will be a new call to action,” she said. “I want everyone to pay attention and see the work progress as quickly as possible.”