Update: Parks district will reopen Tilden, other local parks on Thursday morning

The combination of heavy rains and wind can create hazardous conditions.

rain on a windowpane in Berkeley, with a view of a white car beyond
An atmospheric river hit the Bay Area last winter, but this year has been especially dry so far. Photo: John Andrew Rice

Update, Jan. 27, 7 p.m.: The East Bay Regional Park District will reopen the parks listed below at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

Update, Jan. 26, 7:50 p.m.: Projected heavy rainfall and high winds have prompted East Bay Regional Park District to close several local parks for the safety of community members. The following parks will be closed from 8 a.m. on Jan. 27 until 8 a.m. on Jan. 29:

  • Anthony Chabot (Redwood Canyon Golf Course may remain open)
  • Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve
  • Huckleberry Regional Preserve
  • Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area
  • Lake Chabot Regional park
  • Leona Canyon Open Space Regional Preserve
  • Reinhart Redwood Regional Park
  • Roberts Recreation Area
  • Sibley Regional Preserve
  • Tilden Regional Park (including Tilden Golf course)
  • Wildcat Canyon Regional Park / Alvarado Park

Original story: Berkeley will experience fierce winds and a heavy downpour Tuesday evening in an “atmospheric river” of rain forecast for the Bay Area, and the National Weather Service is advising residents to stock up on essentials, charge their phones and be prepared for emergency conditions.

Rains will begin in earnest at about 4 p.m. and the city and surrounding areas will be under a wind advisory starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday night until 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, with speeds expected at 20-30 mph, and individual gusts at 50-60 mph. This will be even stronger than last week’s wind event, according to NWS meteorologist Brayden Murdock, and could lead to additional power outages, downed trees and flooding.

The risk of flooding is higher in areas that have burn scars from large wildfires last summer, like the SCU Complex Fire in the South Bay, and sloped areas like the Berkeley Hills can be prone to moistened loose soil and falling trees. An NWS flash flood watch covering the East Bay hills will go into effect at 4 p.m.

Murdock said the last atmospheric river was about a year ago, and this is typically the season for a large rain event, but the current “wet season” has been much dryer than in years past. Berkeley’s closest monitor at Oakland International Airport has recorded 2.49 inches of rain so far — significantly lower than the yearly average — since 1948 — of 10.79 inches, and about half of last year’s amount, according to Murdock.

“We’re seeing an express lane of moisture coming up from the equator coming up to our area,” he said, explaining that Tuesday’s forecast rainfall of about 4 inches for Berkeley could nearly triple its amount this season. “It’s a lot, over not a huge amount of time.”

The strongest downpour will be Tuesday evening into Wednesday, with continued rainfall (but not as heavy) into Thursday.

The wind and rain may create dangerous conditions in the Bay Area, especially for drivers. Road conditions could be hazardous, power lines may fall, visibility will likely be poor and water rushing down streets could create the potential for hydroplaning.

One small silver lining? Chilly temperatures throughout the week that have brought reports of snow in Northern Bay Area counties won’t dip even lower, instead being slightly insulated by the rain, Murdock said. Temperatures will hover around 50 degrees for the most part, even overnight.

Importantly, residents need to be prepared with “go bags” in case they need to evacuate, and have their phones or radios charged so they can access information in case of a power outage. Murdock also recommended having emergency plans for pets, and to make sure to stock masks in “go bags” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While many forecasting models are tied up working on the atmospheric river, Murdock said they’re mostly in agreement that the rain will die down before the weekend and temperatures will remain on the cool side. More rainfall is forecast in the coming weeks but “not nearly” as strong as Tuesday’s atmospheric river.

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's homelessness and housing reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: 510-585-8315.