Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Storm of Fall 2009 HIts San Francisco

The first of the Fall storms has hit San Francisco and the Bay Area and has been longer-lasting than forecast, affecting travellers and causing damage around the city.

Winds have been gusting up to 70 mph over the Golden Gate Bridge, ferry boats and cruise ships that sail around the Bay have been cancelled, Fleet Week ship visits to the USS Green Bay - it could be renamed the Gray Bay - were cancelled. There have been power outtages, flooding around the roads and trees down.

As a result of the storm, the USS Green Bay may open tomorrow to visitors instead.

The Development Manager for the Blue and Gold Fleet at Pier 39, that carries both visitors and commuters around the bay, said that about 30 - 35 per cent of trips had been cancelled.

'First and foremost, we are keeping the safety of our customers in mind,' said Mr Dennis Swayne. The most important weather problem today had been the gusting winds, he said.

Ferry companies in the bay, including Bay Link and the Alameda Oakland Ferry, with which the Blue and Gold Fleet is associated, and the Golden Gate Ferry, had been taking direction from the Coast Guards.

'It's been just a little too rocky and a little too rough. It is not a fun day,' he said. 'Even on a big, big, big boat that weighs a lot of tons, you would feel it out there today.'

At the time of speaking to Mr Swayne, at 4 pm, he was waiting on the weather to know if the crucial 6.30 pm commuter ferry would be able to sail. But from what he had heard, he said, many commuters had left the city early and travelled back by other means.

A spokesman for the Golden Gate Bridge said that winds had gusted up to 70 mph, but that the bridge had remained open. Drivers had driven carefully and slowly, and there had not been any serious problems.

The spokesman said that the wind had blown in shorts gusts rather than at a steady speed and that gusts like that were 'not unheard of at this time of year.'

Closure of the bridge depends not solely on the power of the wind but its direction, he said. A north-south wind that hits it broadside is much more of a problem than an east-west flow, like today, that runs alongside it.

The road along the Embarcadero had also flooded.

The US Navy's newest amphibious landing craft, an aircraft carrier that supports the Marines on operations, closed completely to visitors today. The few visitors that went along on the final day of Fleet Week, were unable to have a tour of the ship.

However, an officer at the gate this afternoon said that it was possible that the ship's visiting hours would be extended and that it would be open tomorrow, at least in the morning, for visitors. The opening wasn't guaranteed as they were awaiting orders, he said.

At the time of posting this blog, it had not been possible to get a comment from the Fleet Week organization.

Power outtages affected the city, including part of the County Hospital on Potrero Hill. At Mission Creek by lunchtime the Mission Bay Parks department had spotted a tree that had nearly blown over. They secured it with a rope and poles - pics show tree, and birds taking refuge on the bank of the creek

On the NBC11 news tonight there were pictures of trees down and roads flooded around the city.

Residents woke up to high winds and heavy rain early this morning, and with an NBC report of 30 mph gusts over the Golden Gate Bridge and a fall of 3"-5" rain.

Early forecasts that the rain and heavy winds would subside by 2pm proved not to be the case. There was a lull in the city around mid-morning but by 12 pm the high winds and torrential rain were back with a vengeance and were still continuing at 4pm.

But not everyone was affected by the weather! At Pier 39 this afternoon - pic at top shows a few visitors looking over to a rain-shrouded Alcatraz - quite a few of the sea lions were out swimming in the dock and the bay.

'They're not bothered by the weather!' said Sue Muzzin, Director of Public Relations & Advertising for Pier 39.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported it to be 'the worst October storm the Bay Area has experienced since 1962, when terrible weather famously disrupted the World Series between the Giants and the New York Yankees.'

The storm has produced record one-day falls for October of 2.48 inches in Downtown San Francisco, and 2.64 inches at SFO.

The Green Bay slipped quietly out of the Bay mid-morning the following day without taking any more visitors on board.

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