The Menlo Park City Council last month recognized nine employees from city Public Works and the Police for their timely and first-rate response to recent storms.
Public Works crews responded to approximately 139 storm-related service calls ranging from clogged storm drains and surface flooding to downed trees and debris on traffic lanes. Menlo Park Police received 189 storm-related calls relating to surface flooding and vehicle hazards and breakdowns, reported Justin Murphy, the city manager, in his storm report update to the Council.
Several departments joined together to go above and beyond, taking on assignments not part of their day-to-day work, such as the 24/7 monitoring of the Atherton Channel and San Francisquito Creek through the heaviest storms and the transportation of more than 11,000 sandbags.
Victor Nava, Raul Jimenez, Pablo Flores and Mario Pujol from Public Works; Officer Galen Fliege, Corporal Mary Ferguson, and Officer Shaun Nissen from Menlo Park PD; Suzanna Fong and Carolina Marceaux from the Dispatch Team received the special recognition at City Council Chambers.
City staff preparedness was of the utmost importance, as wind speeds reached up to 50 mph and an unprecedented amount of precipitation resulted in water levels exceeding 21 feet, almost hitting the 24 feet capacity, at Pope-Chaucer Bridge in San Francisquito Creek, which normally has water levels resting below six feet.
“While many of us were sitting at home, cozy, under blankets, these folks were out there in the rain, getting their socks wet and doing the hard work for all of us,” Mayor, Jen Wolosin said. “We are so grateful.”
City Council Member Betsy Nash also relayed the positive feedback that was received from the public, saying that “many residents reached out to say that they were very pleased with the response and communication.”
In his storm report update, Murphy briefed the Council on preparation and communication efforts.
Additional measures were taken on top of usual tasks like storm drain inspections on a regular basis and tree trimming on a five-year maintenance cycle.
A preparedness exercise with the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority Agency Partners took place on Dec. 7, the city virtually opened its
Emergency Operations Center on Dec. 31, 2022, sand-bag stations were upped from two to three, and the San Francisquito Creek Multi-Agency Coordination Operational Plan for Severe Storm and Flood Response was implemented. This plan focuses on pre-incident planning prior to a storm or flood event, coordination of agencies in response and recovery operations, and collaboration on public messaging.
A Stormwater Master Plan remains under development. The last citywide study on drainage needs was completed 29 years ago. The Stormwater Master Plan is a much-needed update that would assess the current condition of gutters, pipes, manholes, catch basins, and pump stations and identify improvements that need to be made to remedy deficiencies in these systems over the next 25 years.
Communication efforts have also ramped up. The city began messaging residents on Dec. 26. It successfully sent out flood warnings and information on precautionary measures to more than 9,500 residents.
All city social media channels were monitored and updated with storm related information and city email subscriptions continuously sent out storm updates, sandbag locations, preparation and flooding tips, and non-emergency and emergency contact information.
However, it is unclear exactly how many residents received this information as “at this point we don’t have the ability to check on how many additional subscribers came through,” said Murphy. “But we’re working with San Mateo County to get access to that information.”
Deputy City Manager Nicole Nagaya provided a breakdown of the city’s storm expenditures so far: $360,000 for debris removal, $65,000 for emergency protective measures like sandbags and $220,000 for the maintenance of roads and bridges.