EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 rain | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'rain'

#Stormaggedon

Lightning Storm - Golden Gate BridgeOK, we got wet. We got real wet, but everyone is making fun of us about it now. Some are calling it the storm that wasn’t, but I think we handled it pretty well.

San Francisco got 3.5″ of rain [some places like the Sunset District actually got 4″]. That’s a lot of water and it was the 11th wettest day in SF history. It just didn’t seem like it because it was something San Francisco rarely gets — warm rain. When it rains in San Francisco there’s usually lots of big huge cold drops that chill you to the bone. This was a lot of small rain drops that constantly kept coming with no let up. People focused on the rain, but that wasn’t what they needed to focus on.

Wind was a bit of a problem and the lack of proper drainage caused the real problems. San Francisco was ready for the most part though. STAY HOME. Was the phrase of the day and people listened. That was even easier when most of the power was out east of Stanyan Street and North of Market. Nobody had much reason to go into work if there was no power. Lots of my friends where told not to bother going into work because there was no power so that stopped a lot of problems from happening. There was less traffic on the roads so there were less crashes even though there were quite a few car drownings outside of SF, mostly in the East Bay and down on the Peninsula.

These were in large part why we didn’t have many problems. We were prepared. They compared it to the last big storm in 2008. It wasn’t quite that bad and I actually had to drive to work in Burlingame that day and the wind was so bad that I got blown off the road when a big rig that was next to me sped up and the wind it was blocking suddenly whipped around and hit my car causing me to fishtail off to the side of the road. The puddles were bad from the flooding because they were big and muddy and when a car next to you hits one your windshield suddenly becomes a wall. If you’re traveling at 60mph this can be kind of scary, but most people weren’t out driving.

Power outages are something that we have to deal with from time to time so I think most of us were prepared. I was lucky in that we stayed connected the whole time. For the most part, San Francisco fared pretty well.

432819_1280x720On the other hand apparently people in the East Bay and Peninsula weren’t used to having to deal with lots of rain and the biggest problem was the sewer systems couldn’t handle it. There were lots of flooding in the normal places like freeway underpasses, but there were also some flat areas that from pictures looked a lot like New Orleans after the levees broke during Katrina. Hopefully those areas will think about that now and clean out their sewer lines before the next storms come through which should be happening soon. San Francisco needs to think about this as well. I noticed there were several sewer crews out after the storm unsealing sewer lines that were plugged that probably wouldn’t have happened if they had taken care of it before the storm.

On the upside, all of California got really wet and contrary to what some people have been saying, yes, this did make a dent in the drought. More rain is coming and that will make things much better. Northern California got the most rain with some places getting over a foot of rain in one day. We’ll still need quite a few good soakings to help fill up the reservoirs where waters had dropped severely over the past few years and we aren’t out of the darkness yet, but it is getting better. Oddly enough, this was something I was saying several months ago about El Niño. Yeah, I pretty much predicted that one accurately. December and January were always our coldest and wettest months of the year. El Niño just made them warm and wetter. Expect to see more heavy rains, probably not quite as big as the last storm, but overall this will help California and the drought quite a bit.

Just a last note, you all know how much I love to put photos in with my articles, but for some reason I’ve run into a little problem I need to fix that’s not allowing me to post photos at the moment. This is not fun as I collected lots of storm porn photos to share with you.

El Niño Is Coming

topex_pacific_2003097_lrgHave you been enjoying our warm weather lately? I sure have. I just recently put on jeans for the first time in over 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn shorts for that long in my entire life in San Francisco. It’s a sign — El Niño is coming.

I predicted this last year. Summer last year was freezing and I also don’t think I had heard more people misquoting Mark Twain talking about The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. It was cold alright, but when our San Francisco Indian Summer kicked in it became kind of magical here. The problem was that usually around late November it starts to get cold — it didn’t. It was a bit on the cool side, but nothing near what it should have been. As time went on we had more warm weather with a freak downpour in February that lasted about 15 minutes after which I was seeing steam coming off the ground in the Sunset District.

It was then I knew that I was right and El Niño would be coming. NOAA has been saying we’ll have one, but it won’t be huge. I’m predicting it will be a pretty big one. We had a big one in 1999 which means only about five people were here to experience it. Let me tell you what it was like…

Expect rain, lots of rain. It’ll be different than the usual rain in that it will be more like it’s raining in Hawaii. It will be like someone turned a firehose on San Francisco for 15-20 minutes and then it will stop. The rain will be so heavy that when it stops if you are driving that you will have to drive through a temporary river that takes another 10 minutes to flow away. It will then be sunny and warm again. The general weather will change from overcast to sunny all throughout the day with weird downpours every now and then. The weirdest part of the rain is that it’ll come from smaller clouds that won’t be blocking out the sun so you’ll get a fierce downpour combined with sun which can look like diamonds falling from the sky. In 1999 it was so bizarre that on New Years Eve I was sitting out in front of my house BBQ’ing Ostrich steaks [I had money back then].

Rain is good. California needs it badly. It will help our drought problem, but it won’t make it go away. California is one of the largest agricultural providers in the entire United States so any water we can get we’ll take. You have to keep in mind though that will lots of sudden rain there will be problems — like land slides.

If you live in Marin or on the Peninsula expect to encounter the hills flowing into your backyards. I remember reading about lots of people losing their homes last time the big El Niño hit us. If you have even a little bit of survivalist in you I’d stock up now just in case. If you’re in San Francisco expect to see the storm drains overflowing to the point that you’ll see a few manhole covers rising up from water pushing its way out. If you’re living in the eastern part of the city where you might have a lower apartment, get sandbags. You’ll be flooded. If there’s any drainage system in place make sure it works because it will be overloaded.

El Niño is a weird phenomenon that hits us about every 5 years where the water temperature in the ocean rises considerably. The warmer it gets the worse El Niño is for us. I remember in 1999 a friend of mine who was a scuba diver bought a dry suit to keep him warmer during his dives and he ended up never putting it on once that year. San Francisco will become a little more tropical for a few months so the best thing I can say is to enjoy it and hope that it’s big enough to put a dent in our drought.

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“We’re Not Prepared For This Weather…”

 

It's Nice Today...It seems like every year I hear the same thing from places all over the Bay Area, We’re not prepared for this weather! It’s summer. It gets hot. Be Prepared. OK, maybe in San Francisco that isn’t completely true except for this year where we’ve been hit by warmer than average temperatures for this time of year, but it’s the same type of heat we get in September so we got hit a few months early. It’s not like everyone puts their air conditioning in cold storage until September. Oh wait, San Franciscans don’t have air conditioning.

I’ll try and explain weather to all of you since it seems everyone forgets what it is every year around here. This could be due to all the newcomers that rotate in and out of the city every year, but summer in San Francisco isn’t supposed to be warm. It might be warm compared to Alaska [or Alturas which has got to be the coldest place in California], but it’s not what people expecting summer weather expect.

The reason it’s so odd is that [my apologies, I’m not a meteorologist] we get warm air over the water that hits the cold air over the land. The warm ocean air contains more moisture which condenses when it hits the cold land giving you…fog. Summer’s in San Francisco tend to be foggy around the coast with a few places like Potrero and the Mission where it burns off very quickly because they get the sun earlier in the day to warm the land and create a bit of equilibrium between the two.

For people who grew up here we have an old saying, You know you’re in San Francisco when you put on your heavy winter jacket to barbecue in July and make sure you’ve got a tank top on when you run out for a six pack in October.

San Francisco is kind of backwards weather wise and even then we don’t really have weather. It might get a few days into the freezing temperatures in December and January and we might get into the upper 90’s a couple of days in September and October. That’s pretty much the extremes we get. Snow is pretty much unheard of since 1976 and we don’t get tornados or hurricanes here either. We do get rain and hail, but our weather hasn’t gotten that message lately. We’ve been experiencing a rather dry year so far and while I can’t say that’s why it’s hot it’s just one of those things you should be prepared for.

Most San Franciscans already know to dress in layers so that shouldn’t be a problem and most people also carry water bottles so dehydration isn’t really a factor. Most of the companies that I’ve worked for also have air conditioning installed even though they hardly ever need it so the whole, we’re not prepared for this weather is kind of a joke to me.

We all have to go outside and even if you’ve been here only a couple of months you should know how to deal with the weather. If not then I suggest San Diego where the meteorologists are overpaid because every day is, nice.

Shhhh…A Shopping Secret

La Playa SafewayI was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.

It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.

The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.

When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.

Winter In San Francisco

It looks like winter has finally arrived in San Francisco. Winter here is different that in other parts of the country. We don’t get snow [well maybe every 30 years we get an inch], we don’t get ice, we don’t get below zero temperatures, but for some reason you are freezing when it’s 60° outside. It’s a different kind of cold. It’s a very wet cold that soak through to the bone and there are a few things you have to keep in mind.

If you have a fireplace check to see if you can close the flu. I have to do that today because even though we have our fireplace blocked off with our daughter’s toys I was still gettiing hit by 50-60 mph wind gusts blowing down the chimney and around the boxy toys blocking the fireplace. Make sure the windows are closed because cold air will blow in and if have your heater on it’s just sucking the heat out the window. If you have gas heating, use it. It’s cheap compared to electric space heaters and will keep your PG&E costs down. It will also warm the whole house and not just a room. Don’t use your fireplace, especially if you’ve closed the flue as it will heat only the one room and might flow over a bit to a closer room. Things like this will make your home life more comfortable. It’s also more eco-friendly not to use your fireplace.

When you have to leave your house, always bring a small umbrella. It might be clear when you leave, but an hour into it you’ll be hit by a downpour. You’ll also have to make sure you wear layers just the rest of the year, but it’ll be time to pull out the sweaters and other long sleeve shirts. Think of how the people dress on the TV shows in New York. You’ll want that. You might sweat a bit on your way in, but trust me, you’ll be warm.

If you’re one of the lucky few that gets to drive into work you’ve got another thing to deal with and that is the manhole covers on hills. I haven’t been out today, but I’m sure with the rain that’s been coming down that we have a few manhole covers being lifted up by too much water and flooding the streets as it rolls down the hill. You won’t need to sandbag your house if you live in an area like this unless it’s a heavy downpour and you live in the downward corner houses. The streets are also not very even so you’ll get puddle build up especially near corner drains that get blocked with pine needles and leaves being blown off the trees. I would suggest you keep to the middle lanes when driving. I remember a horrible experience I had when driving in San Rafael one winter where I was driving and underpass and saw a line of water all the way across and thought to myself…PUDDLE JUMPING TIME! Turns out as I speed up the water was over three feet deep and spewed everywhere soaking my engine and stalling out my car. Luckily I had time to get off to the side, but this was before cell phones so I just put on my blinkers and luckily a tow truck came by and took my AAA card and helped me out.

Another thing you’ll need to think about is power outages. Even in San Francisco where it gets wet and windy, but not as bad as the North Bay we get power outages. If it happens after you go to bed then your alarm doesn’t go off and you’re late for work. You’ll get up and have no power to cook yourself breakfast unless you’ve got a gas stove [we don’t]. It helps to have one of those butane burners on hand if the powers out for awhile. Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer very often to make sure you keep things cold. The frozen stuff will stay frozen for a day or so, but your refrigerator might get warm because it’s used more often within 12 hours. It’s also nice to have an old style oil burning lamp. I have my grandmothers for when we’re sitting in a room together, but we also have several rechargeable very bright lights that will last for 12 hours we can carry around with us. It’s kind of interesting showering and shaving in the dark with nothing but a bright LED light to brighten the room. We also have a gas grill outside that we can cook on if it’s not a downpour. If it is we should think about getting an awning to cover it.

If you need to kill time hopefully your iPhone/iPad/Tablet/SmartPhone has 3G or 4G that can pick up a connection. I learned how to turn my iPhone into an alarm clock with out it buzzing with every email or tweet I get. Just be careful that you don’t overuse your time or you’ll have to pay big time. I always kind of liked the quite during a power outage. It just makes me feel like I’m not being attacked by electrical energy from all the devices in the house. The power outages only last about four hours, usually less unless it’s an earthquake then it could be 12 hours without power. I have some friends who own a Victorian they restored to its original form so if they get a power outage they light the gas ceiling lamps and are fine. Most of their appliances are gas powered which saves them money and keeps them going during a blackout. Just a little something to think about.

Yes, winter is the magical time of Christmas, but there’s nothing magical about living in a freezing house or working in a freezing office. I do like coming home from work and opening the door and feeling heat hit my face. To me that’s the magical part of winter for me.

Why Being a Meteorologist Sucks in San Francisco

Louis Black once said that the best job in the world would be the weatherman in San Diego, “How’s the weather today Bob?…Nice.” Now I don’t want to put down our local meteorologists [the new way to de-sexify weatherman], but our people who handle the weather have their work cut out for them and they should get paid more than the same people in San Diego where it’s nice.

I love my weather app on my iPhone and since my wife is from the East Coast I’ve learned that the Weather Channel is sacred to them back there. Whenever someone from the East Coast comes to SF they always want to watch the Weather Channel for some reason. I always tell them you can watch, but don’t expect them to get it right all the time.

San Francisco has four micro-climates, The Fog Belt out by the beach, the Banana Belt out in the Mission, The Wind tunnel of downtown and I’m not a meteorologist, so I don’t remember the name of the fourth, but I believe it’s on the Bay side of the city. When I lived out in the Mission district for six years I don’t think I put on a sweatshirt once unless I was traveling over the hills to get to my parents house in the Sunset where I gladly live now. Here in the Sunset I sometimes get to wear a short sleeve shirt, but it’s usually under several layers because the morning start out cold and wet and sometimes actually warm up so you have to shed your layers of clothes until around 2-3pm when the wind starts to kick up and then you put on heavier clothes if you have to spend time outdoors at all.

Meteorologists always have to give a forecast for the coasts and inlands because you can see as much as a 40° difference in weather. When I go to work it’s cold and wet out here in the late morning and when I get to work in Marin it’s bright and sunny. It was warm there today and for once they got it right. It was supposed to be hot on Friday, but then the wind changed direction and it got cooler and foggier. Then yesterday it was supposed to be heavy fog at the coasts and it was more like an overcast day with high clouds, at least in the Sunset. Richmond District may have been worse.

We all know that the best way to spot a tourist in San Francisco is anyone you see downtown in Summer in shorts. May, if we’re lucky and then usually September & October are the times for wearing your tank tops and shorts [usually]. Sometimes like when we had the big el Niño in the late 90’s we had to wear our winter coats in July and I was grilling in shorts and a tank top on New Year’s Eve. There’s a lot of things that screw with our weather here, but it’s mostly the winds on the coast and the hills. I called my wife from work today to see how things where going, “It’s cold and wet”. I didn’t really want to tell her I was basking in 78° bright sun in Marin, so I just left that out, but she likes the fog here anyway.

Predicting the weather is a hit or miss option in San Francisco so make sure the next time you listen to a weather report to cut your weatherperson a little slack. If they could control the weather they wouldn’t care what you think because they’d be Gods. Oh and contrary to popular belief, Mark Twain never said, The coldest summer I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

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Commuting the Golden Gate Bridge

I have to say that most of my commute experience has involved Muni with a short 3 month stint having to drive from San Francisco to Burlingame. Of those two experiences I’d have to say the commute to Burlingame was the worst because it involved 280, 380 and 101. Commuting to Marin is much different and I learned that highway 101 has a dark and a light side, but with the opposite meanings applying.

Traveling down to Burlingame I usually hit sun pretty quickly, but I also hit much more traffic. I could get there in a half hour to an hour and a half and you just could never tell. While I’d call this the light side because the sun always seemed like it was out even in the winter, it was also a nightmare because the traffic was stop and go most of the way.

Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge is another story, while current construction work on Fulton made it take me 30 minutes to get from Ortega and 19th to Fulton and Funston, from there it took me six minutes to get to toll booths of the bridge. I’ve figured out a work around that will get me from my house to the bridge avoiding the back up and get me to my twelve mile destination in under a half hour. The odd thing is that in this case even including the bridge toll [$6 because it’s the Golden Gate Bridge be-atch!] is cheaper than taking the public transportation route which would be Muni to Golden Gate transit and would take a little over an hour to do. It’s actually about half the price including gas.

Since I rarely have reason to travel across the Golden Gate Bridge I had forgotten what it was like. Dark, Stephen King like fog until you get through the rainbow tunnel of the Waldo grade. I had to turn my wipers on and off because the fog was so heavy a person from San Diego would call it rain, but it was just an amazingly fun drive. The Bay Bridge speed limit is 50 mph which means people drive about 70-80 mph in part because the fog is usually higher up over there and the lanes are wider and there is more of them.

The Golden Gate Bridge is 45 mph which means that people drive maybe 50 mph, but during commute it’s usually around 40 mph if not a little slower. because there are only three lanes north bound and two lanes south bound. I guess they want people to get out of San Francisco as fast as possible, but we only want to let them in at a slow and expensive rate.


I had vowed in the past to never cross a bridge again, but only realized that was from my experience with the Bay Bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate was, well, nice. It was the calmest drive I’ve ever had and I definitely didn’t feel as cramped as I did do when I ride on Muni during rush hour.

The biggest bonus was after getting out of the Waldo tunnel seeing sunlight and arriving at my destination I find that the company I’m freelancing for offers it’s employees free snacks like fresh fruit, chips, granola bars, yogurt, juice, tea, sodas, coffee and bottled water. They’ll even make a lunch run for sandwiches which you can enjoy in the employee lounge which has a 60″ HD flat screen TV and comfy couches. When I look out my window I get a gorgeous view of the Marin estuary and when I walk out on the deck I get the smell of the fresh salt air which I love while watching blue heron’s and egret’s walking around the marshlands.

I think I’m going to get used to this freelance gig really quick.