San Mateo County emergency officials warn that with winter storms looming, residents and government should take heed of the lessons learned from last year’s weather beating.
The heavy rains last winter and spring wreaked havoc on the county, downing trees, creating debris flows, damaging Devil’s Slide and forcing officials to red-tag homes in San Mateo and evacuate residents of Broadmoor Village in unincorporatedDaly City.
Federal and state offficals handed down a record eight official declarations of disaster in the county in response to the weather, bringing in $21 million to make repairs and assist ailing businesses that were affected by the Highway 1 Devil’s Slide closure.
Despite the hefty stream of state and federal funds, San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services Lt. John Quinlan warns that preparation is essential to ensure officials don’t have to resort to emergency funds in the future.
Some work has taken place since last year’s storm. In La Honda, several wells and pumps have been installed to pump the water out of the hillside, Quinlan said. At Mills Canyon in Burlingame, which saw serious damage to its trail from a debris flow, the city put up a retaining wall to prevent another mudslide.
San Mateo has not changed its storm-preparation program because the weather last year did not hit the city as dramatically, according to Public Works Director Larry Patterson. Still, an approximately $1.5 million project to increase storm drain capacity finished this year on Barroilhet Avenue, which expereinces runoff from Burlingame.
In November, Burlingame attempted to pass a $44 million bond measure that would have paid for massive upgrades to the city’s storm water drainage system. After the measure failed with 64 percent of the required two-thirds vote, Burlingame Public Works Director George Bagdon said the city simply will have to continue cleaning out the culverts and making piecemeal fixes to the system for now.
Homeowner Aline Bier has taken matters into her own hands and is in the process of rebuilding her home on Paloma Avenue.
"It’s been a few years since the really bad flooding," Bier said. "But I know what it can be like when it’s bad, believe me."