Flooding in Southwest Berkeley during last October’s record-breaking storm. Credit: Guillaume Pierre

A heavy winter rainstorm in the Bay Area is expected to cause flooding in Berkeley, particularly near creeks, streams, and areas with poor drainage.  

See flood preparation tips from PG&E

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Bay Area, which goes into effect at 10 p.m. Friday and ends at 10 p.m. Saturday, due to excessive runoff from heavy rains. By Saturday, a strong atmospheric river known as the Pineapple Express will douse the Berkeley flats with between 2-3 inches of rain and the East Bay Hills in up to 4, said NWS meteorologist Dial Hoang. (The Pineapple Express pulls moisture from the areas near the Hawaiian islands toward the West Coast.) 

Strong gusts of wind in the 25 mph to 30 mph range are also expected during the downpour.

The city recommends residents protect their homes and businesses from flooding by clearing storm drains, cleaning gutters and downspouts. 

Volunteers with Berkeley’s adopt-a-drain program have access to the city’s reflective vests and garbage bags; there are currently around 30 storm drain volunteers, with new applications still being screened, albeit slowly due to staff vacancies. 

Residents and businesses can call 311 (or 510-981-2489 after hours) to report storm-related issues “such as a clogged drain, culvert, inlet, or creek; a fallen tree or major limb; a malfunctioning traffic signal; or flooding that enters a travel lane.

Severe storms often cause flooding in intersections and roadways in Berkeley. If you encounter a flooded road while driving, the city wants you to “turn around, don’t drown.” 

Berkeley residents can take up to 10 sandbags for free from the city’s Corporation Yard at 1326 Allston Way on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (The facility will be closed on Monday, Jan. 2, in observance of New Year’s Day.)

PG&E is warning customers of the “possibility that outages could occur due to debris contacting power lines.” If customers see a downed power line, they should stay as far away as possible and contact 911, said PG&E spokesperson Jason King in an email. 

While the rain is welcome, no single storm will be a drought buster. 

“We’ve been in a drought situation for a few years now,” Hoang said. “It’s going to take a lot more systems like this to really make a huge impact on the drought.”

A piece of good news for your New Year’s Day plans: The NWS expects the rainfall to take a break on Sunday before resuming Tuesday. 

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...