Three Dead as Powerful Storms Hit Northern California

Feb. 6, 2024
Los Angeles firefighters found an Amazon truck dangling over a hillside threatening houses below.

Jessica Flores

San Francisco Chronicle


Feb. 5—At least three people were killed in the storms that raked across Northern California, a powerful, atmospheric river-fueled system that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Bay Area homes and businesses, closed streets, caused landslides and downed trees.

Officials in Santa Cruz County confirmed that one person died Sunday afternoon when a tree fell on a home, trapping the person inside. Hours later, another death occurred in Sutter County, where officials said David Gomes, 82, of Yuba City was found crushed beneath a fallen redwood tree in his backyard. Also, Sacramento County officials said 41-year old Chad Ensey of Carmichael died after a tree fell on him Sunday in his backyard.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said at 10 p.m. Monday that more than 94,000 homes and businesses across the Bay Area remained without electricity. That was down from 235,000 outages the company reported in the morning.

Storms pummeled the region with heavy rainfall Sunday and overnight — an onslaught that meteorologists at the National Weather Service upgraded to a "bomb cyclone" Sunday evening. Crews worked to clear debris throughout the day Monday, making progress, but it remained unclear when power would be restored for all customers.

"In terms of outage totals, this was one of the top three most damaging, single-day storms on record, only comparable to storms in 1995 and 2008," PG&E Chief Operating Officer Sumeet Singh said Monday.

The largest concentration of power outages was in the North Bay, where about 40,000 homes and businesses were without power as of 10 p.m.; about 31,300 in the South Bay; 18,000 on the Peninsula; 2,200 in the East Bay; and 2,300 in San Francisco, according to PG&E. Those numbers were down from earlier in the day.

More than 300 fallen trees and tree limbs were reported in San Francisco following heavy rains, Mayor London Breed told reporters Monday morning during a soggy news conference. Most were minor, Breed said, and "less than two dozen" large trees came down in the storm. Standing in front of a cracked tree whose toppled trunk had landed on a white SUV near Dolores Park, Breed urged residents to remain cautious.

"If we continue to get this super saturation of the soils, we may have more trees down," the mayor said.

Storms that settled over Southern California on Monday inundated Los Angeles County, putting millions of residents under flash flood warnings. By Monday afternoon, the storm was still dropping between a quarter-inch and a half-inch of rain per hour in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, according to National Weather Service officials.

Record rainfall in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday put it among the 10 wettest days since the National Weather Service began keeping track in 1877. More than 4 inches of rain fell on the city on Sunday, almost double the previous February record of 2.55 inches that was set in 1927, the weather service reported.

Santa Cruz County officials did not release the name of the person who died. The person sustained fatal injuries when the tree struck the home, located on Highway 9 in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Firefighters called Sunday afternoon to the home pronounced the person dead, said Ashley Keehn with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. Another occupant of the home escaped the home and survived, she said.d

There were reports of widespread damage, downed trees and power outages throughout rural Santa Cruz, where county spokesperson Jason Hoppin said cleanup crews were busy assessing damage. The efforts were hampered by strong winds and continued rainfall, Hoppin said, but county and PG&E crews continued to clear branches to help speed the restoration of electricity.

PG&E officials said they expected to make progress toward restoring power overnight Monday. The most significant outages were in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sonoma, Monterey and Placer counties.

PG&E asked people not to touch downed power lines and to call emergency responders instead. "Assume that it's dangerous and stay away," Smith said.


Napa County emergency authorities said Sunday night that PG&E was at a "major event" threshold, meaning that the utility had to prioritize safety due to downed power lines, "which could delay restoration efforts for many customers who are still without power."


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Some schools and other businesses in Northern California were closed Monday due to power outages. Parks were also recovering from the intense windstorm. Muir Woods will be closed through Wednesday. The Panoramic Highway in the area of Mount Tamalpais between Mountain Home and Stinson Beach remained closed Monday, as did the Drakes Beach area and the Lighthouse Visitor Center and stairs at Point Reyes National Seashore.

In San Francisco, Stern Grove, Pine Lake and all golf courses were closed Monday, while the Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden planned to open late, at noon.

Cal State East Bay officials said Monday afternoon that power had not been restored and the Hayward campus would again be closed on Tuesday. Remote operations would continue, they said. The university's Oakland and Concord locations remained unaffected.



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