Midpeninsula Post

Strong winds cause electricity outages, fallen trees, injuries across Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto

Fallen tree branches on a sidewalk in March 2023. (Raj Virginkar)

Heavy winds caused electricity outages, fallen trees and injuries across Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto on Tuesday, which follow a series of atmospheric rivers that began in December. Recent atmospheric rivers have caused floods, sinkholes and mudslides, but this is the first storm to cause widespread damage in Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Thousands of residents were also impacted by power outages. At the time of publishing, the majority of Los Altos Hills, as well as small swaths of Los Altos and Mountain View remain without power. Some residents, who received notifications that their power would resume by Friday, actually had power restored on Wednesday. 

In Los Altos on Tuesday, the police department received 156 911-calls; the same day last year, they received only 17. There were 206 non emergency calls; they received 44 the same day last year. There were 102 reports of downed trees or branches, and 56 reports of downed power lines, according to Los Altos Police Department Public Information Officer Sonia Lee. 

The Mountain View Police Department received a record 665 total calls over a 24 hour period on Tuesday, according to Public Information Officer Katie Nelson. Over 200 calls required a response by the Mountain View police and fire departments, which addressed fires, fallen trees, downed utility wires, traffic collisions and smoke alarms. 

Most high school students in the area remained safe, but a student at Henry M. Gunn High School experienced an injury caused by a falling metal overhang piece during lunch. They were taken to the hospital and seem to be in stable condition, Principal Wendy Stratton said. 

“The [student injury] that happened today was kind of horrible, and I feel like school should have been let out as soon as someone got hurt,” said Gunn junior Kenneth Ott, who witnessed the incident. “But the fact that someone did get hurt and school still had to continue was kind of screwed up.” 

Following the incident, Gunn’s administrative team directed all students indoors and had students remain in classrooms until all buildings were assessed, Stratton said.

Gunn students gathered indoors during lunch in March 2023. (Grace Gao)

“We’re just being very safe,” Stratton said. “The fire department actually said to us when they had come for the 911 call, that they were impressed with the way that my team kind of came together.”

Gunn, Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto high schools all experienced power outages throughout Tuesday. All four schools also canceled athletic competitions and practices due to the weather.

“Once word came out from the sheriff department, the district office worked together with the school sites for the notice we sent out to parents,” Principal Wynne Satterwhite said. “We all agreed to cancel athletics. I think with that part of it there was a lot of really good communication.”

At Los Altos High, at least one window broke and a tree fell,  Satterwhite said.

“It was definitely interesting just because the trees were banging on the windows, it literally sounded like there was a war outside,” Los Altos High senior Kassandra Bowman said. “I thought a window could possibly break, I was a little worried about that.”

Mountain View High School did not suffer from major structural damage aside from tree branches and debris, Assistant Principal Daniella Quiñones said. The school also experienced multiple power shutdowns, and false fire alarms caused by a faulty smoke detector, according to an email sent to all students and parents from Principal Dr. Kip Glazer.

Mountain View High Assistant Principal Marti McGuirk said the severe weather most impacted travel to and from school. For example, she said bus service was delayed on Tuesday afternoon. Mountain View High moved all physical education classes inside on Monday and extended hours to 8 p.m. on Tuesday night in light of outages.

“Per Santa Clara County guidelines, we also followed their directive and instructed teachers to keep students inside of their classrooms,” McGuirk wrote in an email. “Additionally, many students in Mountain View and Los Altos were without power and potentially access to the internet, so Dr. Glazer asked teachers to consider greater flexibility in completing homework and other assignments as we near the end of the quarter.”

The Palo Alto Police Department did not provide information by time of publishing.

Ella Persky and Sam Stein contributed to the reporting in this story. 


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