Members of the "Friends of Dimond" group clean a storm drain. Any resident or business can "adopt a drain" from the city to help prevent flooding. Credit: Amir Aziz

The rain drenching Oakland on Thursday morning will cause minor flooding in the city and throughout the Bay Area, meteorologists have warned.

The National Weather Service’s flood advisory is in effect until 11:45 a.m., when parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties will have received up to 1.5 inches of rain. Flooding will occur in urban areas with poor drainage, NWS said.

These conditions are especially hazardous to drivers, says the alert, which cautions motorists to “Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads.”

To minimize flooding, the city of Oakland is encouraging residents and businesses to participate in the “Adopt-A-Drain” program. Volunteers receive rakes, bags, and other supplies from the city—as well as alerts before large storms—so they can clear drains of leaves and trash. Interested residents can sign up online or by calling 510-238-7630.

The city also provides up to 10 free sandbags and plastic sheeting to Oakland households to prevent flooding and mudslides. Find out about that program and other storm prevention tips on the city’s webpage.

Rain and floods can cause the most harm to the estimated 3,337 people living outdoors in Oakland, whose health and temporary homes are at greatest risk during storms. Each winter, Alameda County and Oakland open emergency shelters and warming centers, to offer immediate refuge from the rain and cold to unsheltered residents, but the master list of shelters open this winter has not yet been posted. 

The number of winter shelters offered has shrunk significantly since the pandemic began, to lessen the spread of COVID-19, leaving more people exposed to the elements. 

However, Oakland will open warming centers on any night when the temperature dips below 35 degrees, said Oakland Fire Department spokesperson Michael Hunt. If there are strong winds, they’ll open before it gets that cold. The warming centers will be located at the city’s existing shelter sites, such as St. Vincent de Paul in West Oakland, but the city could expand to recreation centers as well if capacity is exceeded there, Hunt said.

Forecasts say Oakland will get a short break from the downpour Friday before a rainy weekend.

This story was updated after publication with additional information about warming centers.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.