Deadly storm exits region, leaving damage behind

On Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, crews from Superior Tree Service remove a large oak tree that fell onto a house on Sunday on El Grande Drive in San Jose, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

Monday was the calm after the storm for much of the Bay Area, as a powerful atmospheric river system moved to Southern California, but the wallop the deadly system packed in the form of heavy rain and hurricane-force winds still needed plenty of cleanup as the week began.

Beyond the branches, limbs and in some cases whole trees dotting the landscape, the storm’s biggest impact Monday was probably the power service lost by hundreds of thousands of customers across the region. Even as the clouds cleared and the wind subsided, many people were left in the dark.

“I think the wind pretty much whipped all of us,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brayden Murdock said early Monday.

The weather service on Sunday had warned of “hurricane-force” gusts over the Pacific Ocean, with waves reaching over 20 feet. The most potent winds recorded over land were 102 mph at Pablo Point in Mill Valley, and in excess of 95 mph in other areas of Marin County.

In Santa Clara County, gusts were notched at 98 mph at Loma Prieta. On Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County, the winds reached 83 mph, according to the weather service.

Showers on Monday added sprinkles of rain and even the occasional downpour to the large amounts that came in Sunday.

Near the Big Sur coast, the weather service measured more than 10 inches of rain in the 48-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Monday. At Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, more than two-and-a-half inches of rain fell in the same period.

Also over those 48 hours, San Francisco received 2 inches. San Jose was hit with one-and-two-thirds inches of rain, while Oakland saw between one and one-and-a-half inches in most places. Walnut Creek and Concord got a little bit less than an inch of rain.

The elements combined to cause at least two serious incidents in Northern California. A tree fell into a home with two people inside on Highway 9 in Boulder Creek, in Santa Cruz County. One person made it out, but the other died at the scene, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn said.

In Sacramento County, two people were killed, according to television station Fox 40: A 41-year-old man died when a tree fell into his home in Carmichael, and an 82-year-old man died under similar circumstances in Yuba City.

For much of the Bay Area, the power outages were the biggest nuisance Monday. PG&E Chief Operating Officer Sumeet Singh called it “one of the top three most damaging single-day storms on record.” Singh said that the power outages in a single day trailed only those created by storms in 1995 and 2008.

The long outages come as the for-profit utility is once again facing strong criticism for its latest large rate increase in January.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, 143,201 PG&E customers remained without power in the nine-county Bay Area. Of that number, 52,707 were in the North Bay, 46,633 in the South Bay, 32,330 on the Peninsula, 5,955 in the East Bay and 5,576 in San Francisco, according to PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian.

Singh said more than 3,000 PG&E workers were working to restore power Monday, and that PG&E had called in crews from other utilities outside of California. Cal Fire, Cal-OES and Caltrans was working with the utility to give crews access to damaged areas.

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