Be Storm Ready: Tips and More to Prepare for the Rain Season

City of Palo Alto
6 min readNov 27, 2019


As the rain season begins, use these tips to prepare and stay safe this winter

Be Storm Ready and Prepare in Advance

Many community members still remember the devastating floods that hit Palo Alto in February 1998. Over 1,000 homes were affected in the Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park areas. Palo Alto and its neighboring cities have since taken many preventive measures to decrease the chances of flooding, including forming the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority and moving forward with projects to address flooding.

Even with these measures in place, the threat of flooding continues and this blog provides tips and tools for the community to be storm ready this rain season. Read on to learn more about how to prepare before a storm, what steps to take during a storm and tools for after a storm hits.

Tips to Help Prepare Before a Storm

Clean out roof gutters, downspouts, landscape inlets, and storm drains on your street to avoid clogged lines that could cause flooding.

Downspouts should drain away from building foundations. Ensure sump pumps are connected and functioning, and garage flood vents are unobstructed so that floodwater can flow freely.

Prepare with the necessary tools to stay safe and waterproof your home.

Replace the batteries in your flashlights and portable radio, and store these emergency supplies in watertight plastic bags. Have a supply of plastic sheeting, plywood, and tools ready for waterproofing of doors and openings, if needed.

Protect your family with emergency plans and emergency kits. Help your neighbors.

Make sure your emergency plan includes pets, neighbors who need extra help, and safe routes to high ground. Keep an emergency kit stocked and handy at home, work, and in the car. Kits should include drinking water, a first aid kit, essential medicines, food (remember special diets and pets), cash, a radio, flashlights and extra batteries stored in a water-tight plastic bag. For other ways to prepare for an emergency, go here.

Plan in advance to assist your neighbors or have them help you. Plan in advance for those with access and functional needs, mobility problems or other disabilities. Know safe routes from your home and office to high ground.

Stay Informed.

Keep a list of emergency phone numbers printed on your fridge and add them to your contacts on your phone. Sign up at to have local emergency notifications sent to you via text, voicemail, or email. Follow the City on social media. The City will utilize all available communications channels to get emergency information out to the public, including social media. Bookmark the City’s storm updates web page for up-to-date local storm information by going here. This web page also provides other tools to stay informed.

Know where to go for sandbags.

Sandbag materials are available at three locations in Palo Alto. Loose sand and bags are provided for free to the public at Palo Alto Airport, Mitchell Park, and Rinconada Park. Some pre-filled sandbags may be available, but we recommend you bring your own shovel. Please remember there is a limit of 10 filled bags per trip for passenger cars and 20 filled bags for pickup trucks.

Sandbags should not be returned to the sandbag stations at the end of the rainy season. Proper sandbag disposal is the responsibility of the user and not the City. Please store the sand if possible and reuse the following season.

Know if you are in a flood zone and insure your property sufficiently.

Identify your flood zone designation at Homeowner insurance policies don’t cover flood damage so purchase flood insurance if you are in a high-risk flood area.

Safety Tips During a Storm or Flood

1. Make sure your family and pets are safe.

Then, if time permits, move valuable household possessions off the floor. Check on the safety of your neighbors.

2. Stay powered safely.

If the power is out, make sure to keep generators outside, away from the house and in open air to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Never run a generator in your garage or near an open window. Use flashlights during a power outage — never use lanterns, matches, or candles as there may be an undetected gas leak.

3. Turn around, don’t drown.

Don’t drive through standing water. It may be deeper than you think and your car may stall. Abandon your car if you are stuck in water.

4. Report flooding, downed power lines, gas leaks, or blocked storm drains to the City immediately.

If you are able, please move litter, leaves and debris covering catch basins or inlet on your street. Rake the materials up and place in the yard waste containers. This will help prevent flooding. Or to report flooding, debris in storm drains, or if you have questions or comments, please call the City. Find emergency contact numbers on this page.

5. Please do NOT call 911 unless there is an imminent threat to life or another serious emergency. See several City contact details below.

After a Flood or Storm

Only call 911 for emergencies. For Palo Alto Fire Department and Palo Alto Police Department non-emergency issues call (650) 329–2413.

If your gas is off, do not turn it back on yourself. Do not turn the gas off, unless local authorities tell you to. Call Palo Alto Utilities for service questions at (650) 329–2579. For more about the City of Palo Alto Utilities Department, go here.

Do not handle live electrical equipment, especially in wet areas. If you have concerns about electrical wiring, power lines or equipment on your property, call (650) 329–6914.

Protect our creeks and Bay. Do not dump. Call (650) 329–2413 to report hazardous material spills and illegal dumping in storm drains.

If your property has been damaged by a storm, check with the City’s Development Center to see if you meet FEMA standards for “Substantial Damage and Improvement.” Call (650) 329–2579.

More Online Resources

-Visit to monitor real-time creek levels.

-Sign up at to receive emergency information.

-Sign up for the upcoming Rainwater Harvesting class, on Saturday, December 7. For more information go here.

-Visit for Palo Alto-specific storm conditions.

-Follow the City on social media for updates during an emergency and for other news and information.

-For more about the Red Cross and storm preparedness tips, go here.

-For other tips and tools to be storm ready, go here.



City of Palo Alto

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