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San Francisco Prepares for Upcoming Storms

SFPUC crews prepare for the upcoming storm.

San Francisco Prepares for Upcoming Storms

City Leaders urge residents and businesses to take precautions as forecasts predict more heavy rains and winds

San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed today joined City leaders to urge residents to prepare for expected inclement weather and share the City plans in response to recent and upcoming storms. In response to expected additional heavy rains and winds in the San Francisco Bay Area, City departments are working together to prepare for another round of stormy weather to ensure the safety of residents. 

On New Year’s Eve, San Francisco experienced 5.5 inches of rain, though the forecast only predicted .5 to .75 inches of rain. New forecasts for later this week are estimating 2 to 3 inches of rain beginning Wednesday, January 4. Winds are expected to range from 24 to 29 mile per hour (mph) with gusts up 46 mph. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Flood Watch for San Francisco from 4:00 a.m. January 4 to 4:00 p.m. January 5, and a High Wind Watch from 4:00 a.m. January 4 to 10:00 a.m. January 5.

In preparation for this event, the City will activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate citywide operations, such as clearing storm drains, responding to hill slides, distributing sandbags, and ensuring residents are informed about what actions they can take to be prepared.

“San Francisco came together on New Year’s Eve to take care of each other during a storm that brought near record rainfall to our city,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “Another storm is on the way, and we have time to prepare our city and manage potential disruptions to our critical infrastructure. These are challenging situations and everyone has a role to play. I want to thank all of our City workers who are out there now preparing this city, and I know they will continue to work during the storm as they did last week.”

San Francisco urges the public to keep 9-1-1 available for police, fire, and medical emergencies that impact life and safety. People should also call 9-1-1 for downed power lines and gas leaks. Residential or street flooding issues are important, however, if lives are not in danger, then these calls and other non-life-threatening storm issues will be transferred to 3-1-1. 311 customer service representatives responded to more than 800 calls on New Year’s Eve for storm-related issues.

Residents are asked to report non-life-threatening storm issues to 311, such as:

  • Clogged catch basins
  • Non-life-threatening street and residential flooding
  • Sewer backups or wastewater odors
  • Downed trees

Reports may be submitted via the SF311 app, available on iPhone or Android, online at sf311.org, or by calling 3-1-1. 311 is available 24/7 with translation services in more than 200 languages.

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is responsible for setting up and leading the EOC to coordinate the City’s response. EOC staff will support field operations, coordinate City resources, and provide public information as necessary. Media representatives should contact the EOC’s Joint Information Center at sfeocjic@sfgov.org for inquiries about San Francisco’s storm response.

In preparation for the storm, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and San Francisco Public Works (DPW) are clearing storm drains, monitoring low-lying areas, addressing service requests, and providing sandbags for San Francisco residents and businesses whose properties are prone to flooding during heavy rains.

Nearly 8,500 sandbags were distributed over the past week.  While supplies last, Public Works will distribute up to five free sandbags per address but ask residents and businesses to save sandbags for those most in need. They are available at the Public Works operations yard, 2323 Cesar Chavez St. (enter at Kansas Street/Marin Street gate.) San Francisco has procured and will receive additional sandbags during the week.

During the storm, the SFPUC and Public Works will have maintenance crews on duty, including arborists, gardeners and general laborers, to address downed trees and limbs during storm days. Additionally, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will have staff responding to hazardous trees and flooding in public parks, including arborists, park rangers, heavy equipment operators, plumbers, and gardeners. Stern Grove and Pine Lake Park will remain closed until Friday due to heavy winds and rain.

San Francisco residents are also supporting citywide efforts through the SFPUC’s volunteer-driven Adopt-a-Drain Program. To date, nearly 3,800 storm drains were adopted by over 2,500 volunteers that help keep the drains clear of leaves, debris, and trash that could otherwise clog the system. Through this year-round work, volunteers help ensure stormwater can drain properly and reduce the risk of flooding, protect the environment by minimizing pollutants and trash from entering the wastewater system, and keep the City’s streets clean. The SFPUC equips drain adopters with the tools and equipment necessary to safely keep their local storm drains clean, like rakes, gloves, broom, and vests. Residents can learn more and sign up by visiting www.adoptadrain.sfwater.org.

In advance of the storm, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has made additional shelter beds available at MSC South (525 5th Street), Next Door (1001 Polk Street), and Sanctuary (201 8th Street). These beds can be accessed by walking-up on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 4:00 pm daily. San Francisco’s Interfaith Winter Shelter Program is active and provides additional shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness during the winter months. The Interfaith Program is currently located at St Mary’s Cathedral (111 Gough Street) and can be accessed by walking-up on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 6:00 pm daily. For more information please visit: https://hsh.sfgov.org/services/how-to-get-services/accessing-temporary-shelter/

San Francisco’s street response teams including the Homeless Outreach Team, Healthy Streets Operations Center, and Street Crisis Response Teams are also conducting wellness checks, offering available shelter, distributing appropriate resources, and providing information about how and where to access walk-up shelter resources. 

The upcoming storm has the potential to impact transportation, utilities and cause localized flooding. As the City prepares, there are practical things residents, businesses and visitors can do to stay safe before, during, and after the storm:

Before the Storm

  • Sign up for AlertSF by texting your Zip Code to 888-777 to receive real-time emergency alerts.
  • Check your supplies and make sure you have what you need on hand: http://www.sf72.org/supplies.
  • Check on friends and family who may need assistance preparing for the storm, especially the elderly, homebound, or neighbors with disabilities.
  • Remove debris and sweep up any leaves from sidewalks and storm drains to keep them from getting clogged. Join San Francisco’s Adopt a Drain and Rain Guardians programs to “adopt” one of the 25,000 storm drains (or catch basins) or rain gardens in our beautiful City and pledge to keep it free of debris and help minimize risk of flooding.
  • If you live in an area that floods, Public Works will provide San Francisco residents and businesses up to five free sandbags leading up to and during severe rainstorms.  Sandbags can be retrieved daily between 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Public Works operations yard, Marin Street/Kansas Street gate. Bring proof of address. Sandbags also are sold at many local hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Elevate belongings in garages or basements.

During the Storm

  • Keep 9-1-1 available for life and safety emergencies. Report non-life threatening storm-related issues such as clogged catch basins, residential or street flooding, sewer backups, or wastewater odors to 311 online at sf311.org, on the 311 mobile app for Android and iPhone, or by calling 3-1-1. 
  • Avoid driving during heavy rains and winds. If you have to be out, then stay away from flooded areas and downed power lines, whether in a car or on foot.  Do not drive through water more than 6 inches deep.
  • If the power goes out, unplug and turn off appliances. Leave one light on to signal when power is restored.
  • Avoid using candles during power outages to prevent  fire hazards.  Use flashlights or head lamps instead.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Stay informed: tune-in to KCBS (740 AM or 106.9 FM), local TV channels, or social media (@sf_emergency; @MySFPUC; @sfpublicworks; @sf_dph) for emergency advisories and instructions.
  • Check on friends and family who may need assistance during the storm, especially elderly, homebound, or neighbors with disabilities.

After the Storm

  • Check your home or business for flood damage and contact your insurer or landlord. Information about how to file a claim for injury, property damage or loss caused by the City and County of San Francisco can be found at sfcityattorney.org/claims or by calling (415) 554-3900. Claims filed will be investigated and evaluated by the City Attorney’s Office Claims Division.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, call 9-1-1. Then call PG&E at (800) 743-5000.
  • Keep children and pets away from floodwaters and avoid outdoor areas that have been recently flooded. Remove shoes and wipe paws before returning indoors.
  • If the power is off, throw away all discolored or foul-smelling food, especially meat, poultry, and fish, in the refrigerator. Freezer foods may last from 48 to 72 hours if the freezer is full and the door remains closed. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Continue reporting clogged catch basins, street flooding, sewer backups or wastewater odors to 311 online at sf311.org, on the 311 mobile app for Android and iPhone, or by calling 3-1-1.
  • Check on friends and family who may need assistance after the storm, especially the elderly, homebound, or neighbors with disabilities.

For more severe storm safety information, visit www.sf72.org.