Storm batters Bay Area, darkens thousands

A much-anticipated major storm blew into the Bay Area Thursday morning as promised, downing trees, knocking out power, and soaking a region starved for months from nearly any rain at all.

PG&E this morning is reporting a power outage at the Larkin Substation in San Francisco, which is affecting service to more than 80,000 customers in The City, utility officials said. PG&E officials said on the utility’s official Twitter account around 9:45 a.m. that crews are expected to restore the substation outage later this morning.

Numerous streets are closed in San Francisco due to flooding, including The Embarcadero from Pier 39 all the way to AT&T Park, according to police. Water has been coming over the seawall along The Embarcadero, prompting the closure, San Francisco police Officer Grace Gatpandan said.

The California Highway Patrol is also responding to reports of flooding on U.S. Highway 101 near Cesar Chavez Street and may need to close the highway there, Gatpandan said.

Flooding has also been reported by the corner of Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street, Third Avenue and Lake Street and at Sunset Boulevard and Wawona Street, where a traffic signal is out, Gatpandan said.

The governor’s Office of Emergency Services has activated the state’s emergency operation center for the next few days to support cities and counties impacted by a storm tearing through the Bay Area, agency officials said.

The National Weather Service declared flash flood and high wind warnings for much of the Bay Area today and said winds could reach 45 mph with gusts of up to 70 mph. The storm has already disrupted public transit in San Francisco, with both the Montgomery and Embarcadero stations closing due to storm-related issues.

Cal OES officials said emergency managers have been proactively preparing for this storm by monitoring its path, communicating with the National Weather Service and asking residents to take steps to ready their businesses and homes for inclement weather.

Cal OES director Mark Ghilarducci said:

“We have been lucky to have a few days of warning as the storm approaches, something that we don’t typically get in other disasters. …¬†This has given us a chance to take steps to minimize potentially disastrous impacts of this storm.”

Cal OES is coordinating with local jurisdictions to identity problems or damages as soon as possible and coordinate the response of state resources as needed, agency officials said. Ghilarducci cautioned residents to take the storm seriously and to listen to local television or radio stations for the latest condition updates:

“Be attentive to warnings and avoid any unnecessary driving in areas prone to flooding.”

The weather has also prompted the cancellation of more than 200 flights at San Francisco International Airport.

Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park will be closed today because of flooding near campus from the storm hitting the Bay Area, university officials said Thursday morning.

People already on campus this morning will be provided instructions on how to evacuate or shelter in place, university officials said. Updates on the closure will be provided using the school’s alert system, emails to students, faculty and staff, as well as an emergency hotline at (888) 533-5388.

The American Red Cross is opening a storm shelter in Santa Rosa. The shelter was scheduled to open at 10 a.m. at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building at 1351 Maple Ave. in Santa Rosa, according to the Red Cross, which will provide warm meals, a safe place to sleep and emotional support for those with immediate disaster needs.

The Red Cross is not accepting in-kind donations at the shelter. Anyone evacuating to the shelter should bring their prescription and emergency medications, foods that meet unusual dietary requirements, identification to show their residence is in a storm-affected area, important personal documents, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and other comfort items.