Repair crews worked through the night Monday until about 2 a.m. Christmas morning to fix an East Palo Alto levee that was briefly overtopped by floodwaters during Sunday's severe rains, according to local officials.
Sandbags were stacked atop the levee along the San Francisquito Creek between Verbena Drive and Daphne Way. Repairs were also made in areas where water seeped through the levees and bubbled up through the ground, said East Palo Alto City Manager Magda Gonzalez.
On Monday, officials from East Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and the state huddled at city offices on Tate Street to plan levee repairs. By that evening, a team made up of volunteers, city employees and 27 California Conservation Corps workers hustled beneath portable lights provided by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District to shore up the levee before forecasted storms arrived Tuesday.
"We're monitoring things today, and we'll have staff on board all night," Gonzalez said Tuesday morning. "Just to make sure everything's OK, although we don't expect anything to happen."
Lukas Brown, who lives at the end of Verbena Drive next to the creek, was home with family Sunday evening when officers came to the door and suggested they evacuate. Muddy creek water was coming down the street.
"It was moving fast," he said. "I thought it was going to go up and into the garage."
The family left and came back a few hours later with sandbags to help protect their property. By that time, the waters were receding, he said.
Although his property wasn't damaged and sandbags were in place, Brown said he wanted a stronger fix for the levee.
"This is just a Band-Aid over a bad sore," he said.
The overnight repair work "was a temporary fix to get us through the winter," said San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority Director Len Materman.
That stretch of the San Francisquito Creek will soon have new floodwalls. The project is slated to begin mid-2013 and is part of a larger program of flood control improvements along the waterway, Materman said.
Sunday's water levels were the third highest since the 1930s, he said. The previous major creek overflow was in 1998, he said.
"It (Sunday) was a very major event and somewhat unexpected," Materman said.
Not knowing how bad the flooding would get, police and Menlo Park firefighters went door to door to East Palo Alto homes threatened by the floodwaters and encouraged residents to leave. About 40 people went to a temporary American Red Cross shelter at the YMCA on Bell Street; most had returned home by Monday.
Daphne Way resident Debra Williams said she went to a friend's house for the night.
"When I left the water was up above the curb," Williams said Tuesday. "All that night I was uneasy because I didn't know what sort of damage was happening to the house."
She was relieved to see nothing more than muddy streets and sidewalks when she returned home Tuesday morning.
Considering the loss of life and significant damage Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the East Coast, Williams said she's glad she didn't take any chances.
"When people say 'evacuate,' you need to go," she said.