Storm Alters Commutes, Challenges Teachers and Students to Work at Home

February 8, 2023


Miki Kimura

A blocked road in Belmont due to a fallen tree in the road. Staff photo: Miki Kimura

Coastal California was hit with a torrent of rain and wind in the first two weeks of January largely due to the atmospheric rivers and narrow regions in the atmosphere of moisture. Students and teachers were even forced to do remote learning on Jan. 4 and 5 due to the weather, following an email sent by Head of School Than Healy. Even upon returning to in-person classes, many members of the Menlo community had difficulty getting to school as the rain continued. 

Residents of Half Moon Bay struggled with the closure of Highway 92. The highway was shut down for a week due to rain concerns and was made worse by a sinkhole that existed prior to the storm occupying one of the three lanes on the road. English teacher Whitney Newton, Associate Director of Admissions Janet Tennyson and sophomore Caroline Baccus, all Half Moon Bay residents, had to alter their commutes due to the closure. In order to get to Menlo, they had two route options: driving north, up Highway 1 to Pacifica and then south down Highway 280 to reach Atherton or going south to San Gregorio and taking Highway 84 to come out in Woodside. 

Both options significantly impacted travel to and from school. Baccus’ commute went from taking 30 to 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Newton’s normal commute time on Highway 92 is 40 to 45 minutes, but having to take one of the alternate routes made it closer to an hour and 30 minutes. Tennyson experienced a similar slowdown. “The highway was closed for a week, and slowly they have been opening it up to one way traffic in each direction,” Tennyson wrote in an email to The Coat of Arms. “My commute went from 25 minutes to an hour, in each direction.” Math teacher Jude Loeffler noticed that, while the closure of Highway 92 did not impact him directly, the influx of cars from Half Moon Bay traveling through Pacifica added about ten minutes to his commute from Pacifica.

During the heavy storm, Newton and science teacher Dietrich Schuhl experienced power outages that made it difficult to work and perform daily tasks. Schuhl was thankful that he had only a couple of days without power, unlike others such as Newton. “It’s frontier living, we like to think of it,” Schuhl said.

Newton was without power for four days initially, before losing it again a week later. She also had no internet for two weeks, leading her to go to cafes and other spots with internet access in order to get work done. On top of limited power and internet access, Newton worried about what to do with her five-year-old daughter. “I was getting ready by headlamp and building a fire to keep my daughter warm in the morning,” Newton said. “Then coming to school and everything’s normal here and no one has any idea what’s going on.”

In the past few days, things are looking better for those along the coast. Highway 92 has been reopened and the stormy weather has passed. “Yeah, I guess right now, I’m just trying to be optimistic, but I think like all of us have sort of long-term anxiety about how our infrastructure will hold and how much we’re gonna need to get used to these sorts of disturbances in the future,” Newton said. “Today, I’m just going to be grateful to drive home.”

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About the Contributor
Photo of Miki Kimura
Miki Kimura, Head Copy Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: Learning new things about the Menlo community through interviews

Interests outside of school: art, music, anime, reading, writing, spending time with friends and family

Class of 2025

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  • M

    Mark HaddonFeb 13, 2023 at 8:42 am

    The new york time is better. Mabeye look at them as an example.

    • R

      Richard ThomasFeb 13, 2023 at 8:45 am

      You speled maybe wrong LMAO