Storms subside as Bay Area residents look to clean-up

LAFAYETTE (KTVU) -- The combination of rain and already saturated soil was too much for eucalyptus tree that has stood for over 100 years.

The stately, 150-foot tall tree crashed down this weekend in a parking lot near downtown Lafayette. Tree trimmers say it will take several days to remove the tree, which currently spans a parking lot on Lafayette Circle.

Customers dining inside La Finestra restaurant Sunday afternoon heard it come down.

"It was very quiet going down but when it crashed into the cars it made this huge noise, like thunder," said Jeff Assadi, who owns the restaurant.

The recent round of wet weather that has soaked the Bay Area has resulted in falling trees, sinkholes and overflowing reservoirs, developments that are in stark contrast to the drought that has gripped Northern California.

On Monday, Claire Roberts inspected her Subaru, which she bought just last month. The new vehicle suffered extensive damage when the tree crashed onto it. The vehicle and four others were destroyed by the falling tree.

"I can get another car," she said. "As long as no one got hurt that is the main thing."

"Luckily everyone had just gotten inside" the car, Roberts said. "A lot of people could have been hurt if it happened a few minutes earlier."

The wet weather is also being blamed for a sinkhole that opened in the fast lane of southbound Highway 13 in Oakland, just north of Broadway Terrace.

Thanks to a social media savvy law enforcement officer, the sinkhole has a name.

A California Highway Patrol officer refers to it as Steve, and the post on social media has received much attention.

"People are flying by and it is still wet out and I wanted to reach as many people as possible," CHP officer Sean Wilkenfeld said. "Sometimes you have to think outside the box and I thought of naming it Steve."

He said many people who have reacted to the post on social media have noticed something . . . strange about "Steve."

"Apparently the sinkhole is in the shape of Ohio," Wilkenfeld said. "So, we're getting a lot of feedback on that as well."

The sinkhole has prompted the closure of two southbound lanes on Highway 13 and the eastbound Highway 24 connector to southbound 13 while Caltrans works to repair it.

State officials said a drainage pipe running under the road leaked, which washed out the ground underneath. Road closures are expected to last at least until Tuesday, officials said.

The recent soaking rains in the Bay Area have resulted in a spillover from the San Pablo Reservoir.


East Bay MUD officials said they plan to release some of the water into the spillway -- the first time there's been an excess of water in six years.

"This is good news," spokeswoman Jenesse Miller said. "It's good to have this kind of precipitation after the historic four-year drought."

By KTVU reporter Rob Roth.

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