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‘Atmospheric river’ causes minor flooding, downed power lines in Redwood City

Roughly 30 customers are still without power as a result of weather-related outages

A winter weather event caused some disruptions in Redwood City on Tuesday, when more than two dozen residents lost power, and rainfall caused minor roadway flooding.

The outage was the result of two downed power lines on Bay Road near Seventh Avenue, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Spokesperson Mayra Tostado. The poles caught fire when a mixture of rain and built-up debris formed mud, which caused an electrical “flashover” or sudden discharge of electricity.

Crews from PG&E responded to reports of damaged electrical equipment shortly before 9:30 a.m. Dozens of customers are still experiencing an outage, with power expected to be restored Tuesday evening.

Bay Road was closed between Fifth and 10th avenues starting around 10 a.m., and residents were advised to use alternate routes. The road was reopened at approximately 12:15 p.m.

The Bay Area was hit by a so-called “atmospheric river” that brought just over 1.5 inches of rain to Redwood City on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). San Francisco received 1.9 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, while to the north, Santa Rosa received nearly 3 inches. Redwood City’s peak wind gusts reached roughly 25-30 miles per hour.

The Peninsula experienced some minor flooding on Tuesday, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel. Water was reported on one lane of Southbound 101 near Broadway in Redwood City just before 11 a.m. In San Mateo, a foot of water covered both lanes of the Fashion Island off-ramp around 3 p.m. 

The flooding was likely caused by a combination of heavy precipitation and blocked storm drains, according to Montiel.

“If we get a lot of water, and it’s raining heavily, it’s hard for the drains to keep up,” he said.

No crashes were reported as a result of the flooding, according to Montiel. While high-surf advisories remain in place, the regional flood advisories have since been lifted.

The worst of this storm’s precipitation has since moved through, with more rain expected Thursday night, and Friday night into Saturday, according to NWS Meteorologist Rick Canepa. He said that Friday would likely see more substantial, sustained rain across the Bay Area, with a couple of inches predicted for Redwood City and up to twice as much in the surrounding hills.

“We’re in the heart of the winter season,” Canepa said.

Tuesday night is expected to be partly cloudy, with lows in the 40s and 30s. 

These rainstorms are typical for the area, which experiences an average of 5 to 7 atmospheric rivers per year, according to Brooke Bingaman, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service, who spoke with the Pulse last year.

An atmospheric river is “a concentrated plume of moisture that travels across the Pacific Ocean and then makes landfall somewhere along the west coast,” Bingaman said. Unlike a regular winter storm, an atmospheric river is named for its characteristic “river of continual moisture” that hits the same area for a sustained period.

Residents are encouraged to stay away from downed power lines and report them to 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.


Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast.
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