County braces for heavy winds and rain

With forecasters predicting that the heavy winds and rain due this weekend will knock down power lines and possibly flood local roads, agencies around the Bay Area are gearing up to battle any natural mishaps.

Although San Mateo does not have large, flood-prone rivers, the low-lying areas in the eastern half of town and neighborhoods around San Mateo Creek could take on water, and power lines around the county are at risk of damage from falling trees or high wind.

National Weather Service forecaster Steven Anderson said a low-pressure system from Alaska should bring a “very powerful” storm through the Bay Area, ending Sunday.

“The heart of the storm is expected to come through on Friday and Friday afternoon, with very high winds,” Anderson said. “Numerous power outages are likely [tonight] and Friday, from fallen trees and downed power lines.”

At Wednesday’s San Mateo Fire Department conference call between Battalion Chief Mike Borean and his crews, the group discussed weather preparation, including making sure all trucks have chainsaws with fresh chains and blades for removing fallen trees that could block roadways or damage power lines. Portable pumps will also be available for residents to drain flooded areas.

PG&E crews in San Francisco and the Peninsula are also preparing. The power company has already opened up its Emergency Operations Center to begin coordinating storm responses, and its on-duty work force will increase as the storm builds.

“We’ll be out in the field, up until the storm hits, cutting back vegetation,” said spokesman Joe Molica.

During the last period of heavy winter storms, in 2006, PG&E had more than 637 crews of more than 1,100 employees on duty around

California.

Although cold weather and rain make many think of heading up to higher elevation for skiing and snow sports, Anderson predicted nothing short of “blizzard conditions” — with 100 mph winds and up to 10 feet of snow — in the Lake Tahoe area.

The U.S. Coast Guard has also issued a weather advisory, urging boaters to stay in port during the storm to avoid potential disasters.

Swells of up to 29 feet are expected by Saturday, with nearly 50 mph winds.

The last period of high surf storm conditions claimed the lives of two San Leandro crab fishermen when their boat, Good Guys, vanished off the San Mateo County coast.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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