Category Archives: Weather
Never one to shirk a challenge, the city of Berkeley has come up with an ambitious plan designed to take on everything from racial and social inequity to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
And, no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke.
Friday, the city released its “Resilience Strategy,” a 56-page document that attempts to look at “some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social and economic challenges, including earthquakes, wildfire, the impacts of climate change and racial inequity.”
The effort is the culmination to date of work Berkeley is doing as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities network,” or 100RC for short. The city was among the first 33 places in the world — along with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — chosen to participate in the network back in 2013. (Alameda later lost the grant.) More than 1,000 cities have applied to take part.
A community event led by Mayor Tom Bates, along with Burroughs, is scheduled to take place Friday from 3-5 p.m. to celebrate the launch. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) … Continue reading »
The rain may have abated for a while, but that doesn’t mean Berkeley isn’t experiencing some serious water issues.
A water-main break at Grant Street, between Delaware and Francisco, caused streets to be flooded Friday morning. Berkeleyside was first alerted to the news at around 11 a.m. by Isobel White on Twitter who pointed us to photos taken by her daughter, Norrie White, of the surging water. White then reported that both EBMUD and BFD were on scene: “I think they turned off main but still flowing,” she said as of about 11:40 a.m. This was followed by the comment that the water was “destroying the street.”
Tracie Morales, a spokeswoman for EBMUD, confirmed to Berkeleyside at around 1:40 p.m. that a water-main broke at 1734 Grant St.
“We have crews repairing a main break on a 12-inch cast-iron pipe,” Morales said. A total of 28 customers are out of service in the areas of Grant and Virginia streets, and EBMUD estimates repairing the break will take “a few hours,” she said.
Morales said Berkeley Fire Department was the first to respond to the incident, and was on scene at 10:50 a.m. to shut down the water. By 11:01 a.m., an EBMUD investigator had arrived to conduct an investigation and to call out a crew to make repairs. … Continue reading »
A weekend of drenching rain brought some relief from the long-running drought, but also caused fallen trees and power lines and a series of flash flood warnings.
According to the National Weather Service, in the 72 hours up to 5 p.m. on Sunday, 1.83 inches of rain fell on west Berkeley. Heavy rains on Sunday evening carried the weekend total over 2 inches. Despite El Niño, rain totals for the year to date have been below average before the arrival of the weekend rains. The forecast is for further heavy rains later this week.
On Saturday evening, live wires in the 2300 block of Derby Street prompted Berkeley police to issue an alert for residents to shelter in place. The alert was lifted quickly after PG&E fixed the problem. There were additional reports of power outages and a transformer blew in the 1800 block of Bancroft Way.
Heavy rains Sunday evening caused a power outage in North and West Berkeley, up into Albany and Kensington, affecting around 4,600 PG&E customers.
We’ve collected some of the more dramatic and beautiful photos and videos Berkeleyans shared over the weekend. See our note at the foot of this article if you want to share your photos with us. … Continue reading »
Experts are predicting the possibility of heavy El Niño storms this winter, which may well bring floods, downed trees, heavy winds and damage to power lines to Berkeley. This week, city and school district officials are teaming up to offer a free workshop designed to help the community get ready.
Thursday, Dec. 10, the city manager’s office, Office of Emergency Services, Office of Energy & Sustainable Development, and Department of Public Works are collaborating with the Berkeley Unified School District to host a public workshop “to help community members prepare their home and family for the potential high winds, rain and flooding from El Niño storms.”
Read more about Berkeley weather.
Attendees will be able to learn more about what steps the city is taking to prepare for winter storms, and what community members can do to get ready as well. … Continue reading »
The brown lawns are the least of it. The effects of the current California-wide drought go deeper than the roots of the grass and will continue several years after lawns turn green again.
Many of the impacts are very evident in Berkeley and the surrounding area. Trees are dying at a higher rate. The creeks are low and might be dry if it weren’t for leaky pipes. And if this winter brings heavy rains, damage to the stressed trees and creek banks could be significant.
One of the most obvious signs of the drought is the early fall color on many trees around town. Tony Wolcott, a master arborist, recently retired as Albany’s Urban Forester, said that the early leaf drop in the fall is a normal reaction to drought.
“It doesn’t mean the tree is dying,” Wolcott said. “It’s not a great thing, but it is a way of surviving,” he said.
But not all the trees will rebound. Wolcott said he’s noticed flowering cherries and flowering plums showing a lot of stress. So are the camphors, which line many streets in Berkeley.
“A lot of the camphors in town are old, but are dying more quickly because of the drought,” he said. Even redwoods are looking stressed, dropping a lot of needles, he said. … Continue reading »
A live oak tree that fell onto a power line on Golf Course Road in Tilden Sunday prompted a power outage across the park and caused a crash that sent a cyclist to the hospital.
The tree toppled from 50 feet up a cliff onto Golf Course Road, around 200 yards south of the entrance to the golf course, at around 11 a.m., according to Carolyn Jones, spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District.
The tree fell onto a power line which in turn knocked down a power pole. A cyclist on the road collided with the power line. Jones said she understood the cyclist was unable to stop in time. He was taken away by ambulance but, according to park staff, seemed to be OK, Jones said.
Berkeley’s Tilden Park reports that it reduced water usage in May — the most recent bill available — by 40% compared to the same period in 2013. The regional park in the Berkeley Hills has been watering its lawns less and less over the past several years, said Park Supervisor Sergio Huerta.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do, thanks to the creativity of staff,” said Huerta. Huerta was speaking for all of the park grounds except the golf course, which is on a separate water meter. The golf course reports that it has taken one-fifth of the greenways off irrigation — and it’s showing all along the edges.
Throughout the rest of Tilden Park, Huerta said, the lawns have been divided into four categories for watering: reduced, minimal, sporadic and zero. Lawns getting no water this year include the large picnic area called Padre on South Park Drive and the group campsites, Gillespie near the south end of the park, and Wildcat View near the north end. … Continue reading »
Now that Governor Brown has issued the first-ever statewide mandates on water use, many of us are looking at our gardens through a new lens. How can we can reduce the amount of water they use? What are the most drought-tolerant plants? Should we ditch the lawn altogether?
Sunset’s brand new Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Border, and Containers” has come along at just the right time to answer those questions and help arm us for the dry seasons ahead. The book is edited by Sunset Magazine’s Garden Editor, Kathy Norris Brenzel. We spoke with Brenzel to learn more.
The new book couldn’t be more timely given new state-mandated water restrictions being imposed because of the drought. How seriously do you think gardeners in the West take the need to conserve water?
Most homeowners are taking the drought very seriously. I see it every day: browning lawns, lawns being removed and replaced with mulch and low, widely spaced shrubs or unthirsty perennials. The local hardware store sold out of buckets of all sizes recently — people were using them to collect shower water. Landscape designers tell me that they’re getting lots of requests for unthirsty front-yard meadows, and for succulent gardens. … Continue reading »
Berkeley officials approved a five-year sewer fee rate hike Tuesday night, and now it’s up to property owners to determine whether it will stick.
One thousand gallons of water currently costs about $4 to use in Berkeley for the average single family home. Beginning July 1, that same amount of water would cost about $6, an increase of 46%. By 2020, 1,000 gallons of water would cost $9.55, a 130% increase over the current rate.
The city says it needs to increase fees for sewer service to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer system and comply with federal mandates to improve the system in coming years. The rates take into account decreased water consumption during the drought, which staff believe will help moderate the amount property owners ultimately pay. Staff plan to return to council annually to report on system costs and fees, which council could potentially reduce if the city finds it is bringing in more money than it needs.
The unanimous Berkeley City Council vote Tuesday triggers a Proposition 218 process, which requires voter approval by property owners before local governments can increase certain fees. The city plans to mail notices to property owners this week, set to include a “protest ballot.” Ballots must be cast by June 26 by a majority of property owners to stop the increase, which otherwise will go into effect July 1. … Continue reading »
Don’t expect lush green parks in Berkeley this summer, unless the watering is a surprise from the skies.
Already slashing its water use 26% last year, the city is taking steps to cut even more, it announced last week. Many of the cutbacks are required by Berkeley’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), and/or by the state. They include:
- No watering of street medians
- Minimizing vehicle watering
- Landscape watering, such as in parks and city grounds, twice a week before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. (already in effect last year)
“The City is also . . . exploring the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and street cleaning, and researching options for converting certain landscapes to more drought-tolerant ground cover,” the city said in a recent press release.
Worth noting: The city’s only water fountain at the Marin Circle uses recycled water, which means it can be kept on as it meets a new state requirement calling for a shutdown of all fresh water fountains. … Continue reading »
Hosing down your driveway, watering your yard more than twice a week, or washing your car with a hose without a shutoff nozzle are forbidden in Berkeley, as the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) faces its worst water supply in nearly 40 years.
These are a few of the new mandatory conservation restrictions announced last week by the utility district, which is seeking a 20% water reduction for all of its 1.3 million customers, compared to 2013.
The yard watering must be before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. and not within 48 hours of a measurable rainfall, and sidewalks can’t be washed either. … Continue reading »
What does it cost for a typical Berkeley residential customer to use 500 gallons of water a month? 5,000 gallons? 10,000 gallons?
Given the scope of the drought California is experiencing, the results may surprise you.* After you pay the service charge, water is less than a penny per gallon in Berkeley, no matter how much you use.
As you can see in the chart above, a 500-gallon customer pays about $36/month, whereas a 10,000-gallon customer pays about $140/month. … Continue reading »
The drinking water for 1 million customers of East Bay Municipal Utilities District had an “off” odor and taste over the weekend and, while EBMUD is fixing the issue, customers might have to get used to it.
The culprit? The drought.
EBMUD usually draws the drinking water for the majority of its customers from the bottom of Pardee Reservoir, about 100 miles east of Berkeley, according to Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for EBMUD. But on Thursday, the water district started taking water from the top portion of the reservoir. The water there is warmer and contains some algae, so even though it was treated before gushing into pipes in Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere, there was a peculiar smell.
Read more about the California drought.
It takes about two days for the water to make its way to the Bay Area and when it arrived Saturday there was a flurry of emails and tweets to Berkeleyside about it. Figueroa said EBMUD has gotten about 200 emails, tweets, and phone calls about the taste as well.
Residents described the water as tasting like “raw meat,” or having a “metallic taste.” Others said it was “gross-smelling,” “horrible” or “weird.” … Continue reading »