A family navigating a puddle at International Boulevard and 8th Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2021.
A family navigating a puddle at International Boulevard and 8th Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2021. Credit: Amir Aziz

Earlier today, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the Bay Area, including Oakland and the East Bay Hills. The flood warning started at 4 p.m. Monday and is currently scheduled to last until 10 p.m. this evening. The weather service sends out warnings whenever it determines there is an expected “excessive” amount of rainfall that might cause possible complications, such as falling trees and flooding that can make roads inaccessible or unsafe. 

A car drives through a puddle on Monday afternoon, Dec. 13, 2021, during heavy rainfall in Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

According to the service, rain may cause runoff in areas with natural creek beds and streams, such as Sausal Creek in Oakland, and may lead to floods in areas with inadequate drainage. Storm drains are more likely to get clogged in areas like the Oakland Hills, which may have large amounts of debris from vegetation in drainage areas alongside streets. 

Lt. David Phulps, from the public safety division of the East Bay Regional Park District, told The Oaklandside that residents and visitors should particularly avoid standing close to trees or underneath tree limbs during this type of weather. 

“When it comes to heavy rains, it’s most important to watch out, especially for trees that have reduced vegetation because of fire season,” he said. The fire season also usually leads to soil that can’t take any more water, which leads to hillsides clumping up and creating landslides. 

Other advice from Lt. Phulps includes driving below the speed limit and avoiding driving, walking, or biking across standing water. If you can’t see how deep a flooded section of road is, you should not attempt to go through it, he said. Oaklanders should also check their tire depth for good tread, ensure both headlights are working, and avoid littering, which often leads to more clogged drains. 

Rainfall usually leads to higher car collisions, even at light levels. For example, according to a 2019 North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies investigation that used high-resolution radar, traffic collisions increase by 27% during light rain. That study analyzed more than 100,000 collisions that led to deaths between 2006 and 2011. When the rain comes down hard, as it’s expected to for the next few days, Lt. Phulps said roadways lose friction, which can cause vehicles to slide. This can be especially true for drivers making fast turns. 

“Even with the best tread and best suspension, you’re a victim to the roadway conditions and the maintenance of the roadway,” Lt. Phulps told us. 

Already, Oakland residents are taking it upon themselves to inform their neighbors about the latest conditions. 

In a message late in the afternoon, Twitter user @Asadashakur noted that the intersection at E 8th Street and E12th Street, near Lake Merritt, was already seeing flooding that was moving onto city sidewalks. 

Another, Rebecca Bird Grigsby, took a video of the sidewalks in their neighborhood beginning to collect rain. 

The Oaklandside’s news editor Darwin BondGraham captured a video of storm drains on Lake Merritt feeding into the lake this afternoon, and reported a “rotten smell.” 

In addition, a creek-like stream of water pushed its way down Lincoln Avenue near MacArthur Boulevard. 

Oakland had officially received close to 2 inches of rain today at press time, though several amateur meteorologists were claiming up to 4 inches. 

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.