Public Works, Up Close And Personal

I got first-hand exposure to Sunnyvale’s Public Works staff last night, when the rain split a forked redwood tree on the court nearest to me and took down half the tree into the street, blocking all access.  The first I heard was when a neighbor texted me photos of the downed tree.  She’d already contacted Public Safety, so there wasn’t anything for me to do.  She filled me in on what was happening until I got off work and returned home.  Checking it out, it was pure luck that nobody was hurt and no property was damaged.  The tree missed all parked cars, and nobody was out walking since it was raining.  It was kind of a big deal because it blocked off all street access to sixty or so homes.  There was a back way in, through another complex’s driveway, but a lot of new residents probably don’t know about it.  Condo complexes can be a bit of a maze.

Anyway, first to arrive on the scene was a Sunnyvale Public Safety Community Services Officer (CSO).  Apparently, he assessed the scene and called in his report, which I’m guessing was “yep, the resident wasn’t kidding, street’s blocked, someone needs to bust out the chainsaws”.

Public Works staff showed up within about 15 minutes, two guys in a large truck with a crane in the bed, and they started in on the tree pretty quickly.  I arrived home from work a little after that, and I headed out there after picking up my mail.  And my neighbor wasn’t kidding.  The trunk was maybe a foot and a half in circumference and a good 40′ or more long, big chunk of wood.  The CSO had already left for the next call, and the DPW guys already had the chainsaws running. I’m not one to mess with guys with chainsaws, but I snapped a couple of quick photos so I could tweet it out.

I wasn’t about to get in their way, but I did want to explain why some guy was snapping pictures of them, so I told them who I was and that I was going to tweet out the photo.  The DPW guys were very friendly and responsive (even before I introduced myself), and they explained that it was half of the tree that had apparently broken off, and that they were a little delayed because it’s a private property tree, and the city had to contact the Homeowners Association before they could start work.  Given their response time, I’d never had guessed that that had happened, and they certainly didn’t owe me an explanation.  But it said a lot about their commitment to serving the community well that they were conscious of it and offered it up so quickly.

I got out of their hair as quickly as possible, and they wrapped up their work pretty fast.  Within 45 minutes of their arrival, they’d cleared a lane so people could get into their homes.  And within 3 hours of their arrival, they’d cut it all up, cleared the road of all debris, and moved on to the next stop.  It was probably less than that, but I was at the gym for 2 hours once they cleared a lane, and I don’t know when exactly they finished and left.  By the time I got back, there was no sign of them, other than a roped-off pile of wood off the street, and you’d have to look closely to see that something had happened.  And they did all of this decked out in rubber rain gear, because it was raining while they were working (hard, at times).

Great job done by our city staff.

I compare the city’s response to these storms this year with the storms we had at the end of 2015, which were also pretty bad storms.  Back then, I remember significant flooding all over the place – a big one at Reed and Lawrence, another big one at Fremont and Sunnyvale-Saratoga, with other incidents in multiple locations.  This year, the storms are a lot worse, but the reports seem pretty minimal.  I know about 100 residents lost power due to a tree taking out power.  But no major flooding that I heard about, and no major incidents.  Even the usual flooding in my neighborhood didn’t happen, and I’m at the far end of “downstream” for storm water, so we usually get flooded.  Apparently, the City did a great job of pre-cleaning the storm drains and prepping for incident response this year, because it really shows.  Hopefully, the experience in your own neighborhood was the same.  I can certainly say that the DPW guys who showed up to deal with this incident were armed for bear, and they wasted no time and got the job done well and quickly, under difficult circumstances.

It’s not over yet.  Sunday is supposed to be the worst of this second wave of storms, so brace yourselves.  But knock wood, Sunnyvale is ready for it.

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