Potent storms to continue assault 

The latest and largest in a series of storms to thwack California is expected to roll in Wednesday morning, knocking out power, felling trees, flooding streets, sucking sewage out to sea, flipping umbrellas inside out and generally making temporary trouble for hundreds of thousands of people — and zoo animals, too.

Hello, El Niño.

The City saw a sneak preview of that scene Tuesday, with 1.21 inches of rain and squally winds that knocked out power to thousands of homes, closed the San Francisco Zoo and flooded highways.

PG&E struggled to keep up with power outages caused by wind gusts and lightning. Since Sunday, some 185,000 Bay Area customers have experienced blackouts, though most had power restored within hours. On Tuesday, 8,353 San Francisco customers were without power at some point.

As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, about 5,500 PG&E customers were still in the dark. Utility company spokesman Joe Molica said PG&E has flown in extra crews from Portland, Ore., and elsewhere in anticipation of more electrical problems.

Climate scientists say the heavy rains the Bay Area is seeing can be blamed — or credited — to this year’s large El Niño system, a periodic weather phenomenon related to unusually warm water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that can lead to more rain in Central and Southern California. The storms, however, are a welcome change in the drought-stricken state, which should reach 100 percent snowfall for the first time in years.

Wednesday’s storm is expected to bring even more water to the already-saturated region. National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said that 1 to 1.5 inches of rain should fall in the flat, lower parts of The City and perhaps 2 to 4 inches in the hills. Waves 17- to 24-feet tall will wallop the coastline, where erosion already prompted The City to close one southbound lane of Great Highway.

Surfers were warned not to go into the water because Tuesday’s storms lead to permitted wastewater discharge at Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, China Beach and Fort Funston, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Kenya Briggs said.

Tuesday’s storm also led to a small rock slide in the Twin Peaks area, but no houses were in danger, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey said. She said the agency also was responding to downed trees and floods throughout The City.

By 4 p.m., San Francisco’s 311 call center had received 700 more calls than it had the previous Tuesday, said Manager Kevin Dyer.

It was clear San Franciscans were preparing for the worst this week: Public Works had given away some 1,500 sandbags by Tuesday, Falvey said, and had more on hand if flooding is worse than expected Wednesday.

“All in all, it’s gonna be a good day to stay home,” the National Weather Service’s Henderson said.


Storm watch

Rain as of 4 p.m. Tuesday: 1.21 inches

Chance of rain today: 100 percent

Today’s high temperature: 56

Today’s low temperature: 46

Wind: 25-35 mph, from south

Today: Rainy with chance of thunderstorms and high winds
Thursday: Less wind with high probability of rain, high of 50
Friday: Rain diminishing, 20 percent chance of showers, high of 51

Source: National Weather Service

What to do in an emergency

The storm hitting the Bay Area Wednesday has the potential to knock out power and cause other damage. Here are some tips (for more, visit www.ready.gov) to stay safe:

•Have an emergency supply kit that includes water, a three-day supply of food and a first-aid kit.
•Have plenty of batteries to power flashlights and radios.
•Don’t call 911 unless you have an emergency, including downed power lines.
•Call 311 if a tree or branches fall down.
•Be aware of potential flooding if you are near a body of water or drainage system.
•Unplug some major appliances; the power surge that occurs when power is restored can damage some appliances.
•Check your refrigerator and freezer to see which foods are more prone to rotting.
•If you have a power generator, do not connect it to the main power supply unless it has been properly installed and disconnects from the main power grid when it’s operating.
•Do not use barbecues, kerosene heaters or any other outdoors-type heaters indoors; they can contain poisonous gas, including carbon monoxide.
•Check on elderly or disabled neighbors who might have medical conditions or have medical equipment that runs on electricity.
•Have warm clothes, blankets and sleeping bags readily available.


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Katie Worth

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