Berkeley Flood Terror


Well, the mainstream media is giving all its precious attention to stories like Iraq and what Bush is doing to protect us from ourselves, so the networks and big-shot papers like The New York Times will be ignoring the plight of a Berkeley neighborhood (mine) struck by the ravages of minor flooding for about half an hour earlier today.

It’s been a dry fall for the most part, but it started raining hard late last night. Just before 11 this morning, we had about 15 or 20 minutes of very intense rain as a line of thunderstorms moved over. I found one online rain gauge in the Oakland Hills that got .85 of an inch of rain between 10:30 and 11:30, and a station up at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science recorded a rainfall rate of 2.4 inches an hour at 11 a.m. But after a while, the rain slackened, then stopped entirely as the storm moved to the northeast.

About 20 minutes later, Kate exclaimed about a river flowing through our back yard. I looked out, and half the yard had turned into a stream bed, with water running out toward the street. About eight inches more, and the water would have been flowing through the house. Out on the street, the three houses to the south of us had water tumbling down driveways and cascading down front steps (all of our homes are built in the channel of Schoolhouse Creek, which many decades ago was piped into a massive underground culvert that drains into the bay).


The earlier deluge had been so intense that the culvert had apparently filled with water and started to back up through the storm sewers, which flowed back out onto the streets. A large pond formed on California Street, a block to the east and slightly uphill. When the pond got high enough — high enough to float a minivan out from the curb and to stall out a class GM station wagon whose driver tried to drive though — the water did what it does naturally and flowed straight through our yards toward the Bay. We’ve lived in our house going on 18 years, and we’ve seen it rain very hard here, but this is the first time we’ve seen anything like flooding here.

Once the storm sewers started flowing again, though, the pond drained away in less than half an hour.

2 Replies to “Berkeley Flood Terror”

  1. Good Lord. That is some fast moving water. And the sky looks more like life on a bayou than sunny California. Hope the water stayed out of the houses and basements.

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