Rain drops fall in South Berkeley on Jan. 10, 2023. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Find your umbrella, check your tires, and rake out your storm drains: Berkeley is about to get its first big winter rain. 

The National Weather Service is forecasting on-and-off showers through Saturday, thanks to a low-pressure system originating from the Gulf of Alaska. 

The first bout of rain is expected to roll in Monday evening and last through Tuesday morning. After a short pause Tuesday, expect heavier showers starting Wednesday night and possible thunderstorms into early Thursday morning. 

The NWS is expecting modest rainfall amounts between half an inch and 1 inch over the next week, with conditions expected to dry out on Sunday, but it’s warning that some minor nuisance flooding may occur, especially when the storm picks up midweek. If you encounter a flooded roadway, you’re advised to “turn around, don’t drown.”

“This is a middle-of-the-road type storm,” NWS meteorologist Matt Mehle said. The Bay Area usually gets its first winter storms in late October to November. “I keep putting in perspective last year, because that’s fresh in people’s minds. This is not anywhere close.” 

Expect breezy conditions in the Berkeley Hills, where wind speeds may reach up to 20 mph. Daytime temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-to-high 60s; overnight lows are expected to remain in the upper 40s and 50s. 

A light first rainstorm doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the season will be mild. Climate scientists in June declared the arrival of El Niño, a climate phenomenon that refers to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and is linked to increased rainfall across the West Coast

Berkeley storm safety tips

We compiled advice from experts on how to stay safe before, during and after storms.

Sources: City of Berkeley, Alameda County, National Weather Service, Ready.gov, PG&E, CalTrans, Berkeley Wildfire Guide

How do I prepare for potential power outages?

  • Prepare portable phone battery packs and flashlights. Outdoor power generators can be a good option, especially for those with electricity-powered medical devices, but follow manufacturer instructions carefully to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If a power outage occurs, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report the outage and unplug most electrical appliances, leaving one lamp on to notify you when power is restored. Look up estimated restoration times on PG&E’s outage map.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed. If you experience power outage-related food spoilage, file a PG&E claim.
  • Read more tips for preparing for power outages

Where do I sign up to be alerted of a storm?

  • Sign up for Alameda County’s emergency alert system, AC Alert. The city’s website contains more information on how to get emergency notifications.
  • Check the National Weather Service’s Bay Area website and Twitter account for up-to-the-minute weather information.

Where can I go to stay safe during a storm?

  • Berkeley operates an emergency storm shelter at the old City Hall, but it’s frequently at its maximum capacity of 19 residents. Call Dorothy Day House at 510-495-0131 to see if space is available. 
  • When temperatures drop below 45 degrees or when there is a more than a 50% chance of precipitation, you can head to the North Berkeley Senior Center emergency warming center, which opens doors at 6:30 p.m. and closes the next morning. The warming center can accommodate up to 88 people and provides clean clothes and socks (when available), PPE, snacks and weekend meals.
  • Public libraries in Berkeley are open during business hours, Monday to Saturday, and offer bathrooms, water and temporary respite indoors. A full list of libraries and hours is available online

How do I report storm damage?

  • Residents and businesses can call 311 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.” 
  • After hours, call 510-981-6620, to report clogged storm drains, flooding, lights or traffic signals and 510-981-6660 to report downed trees.

What if I’m driving during a storm?

  • If you must drive, check current highway conditions before heading out.
  • If a traffic light is out, treat the intersection as a four-way stop. 
  • Call 911 if you encounter downed power lines.
  • Severe storms often cause flooding in intersections and roadways in West Berkeley. If you encounter a flooded road while driving, the city wants you to “turn around, don’t drown,” as water can be deeper than it appears.

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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...