Breaking News: High winds cause power outages, fallen debris across campus, prompt administrator directives to temporarily shelter in place


Chris Lee

A palm tree sways in the quad under the force of the winds

On Tuesday, March 14, during second period, high winds caused power outages, fallen debris and administrator directives to shelter in classrooms on campus. 

According to the National Weather Service, the winds were due to the atmospheric river currently impacting the San Francisco Bay Area. The NWS has issued a severe high wind warning and moderate flood watch until 11 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14.

The winds resulted in a fallen tree by the library near Arastradero Road, which has since been cordoned off. The severe conditions also caused a decorative metal panel on the P-building to fall on a student who was walking beneath it. 

Buildings on the northern end of campus—including the P-building, N-building and Village—experienced a power and WiFi outage toward the end of second period, with power being restored at the start of lunch. Sophomore Laura Cheunkarndee was in the S-building during the outage. “We were playing in orchestra and all of a sudden, the lights (went) out,” she said. “We just kept playing because we could (still) read the music.” The sudden outage also resulted in the cancellation of the High School Musical sneak peek of “Status Quo.” 

Before lunch, Assistant Principal Harvey Newland sent out a Schoology update advising students of the extreme weather conditions. “Due to high winds, we have asked staff to keep their classrooms open during lunch if possible,” it stated. “We recommend that you find a place to eat indoors to avoid flying debris and broken trees.” At 11:52 a.m., teachers were instructed to open their classrooms to students during lunch to provide shelter from falling debris. 

At the end of lunch, administrators broadcasted a schoolwide announcement. “All students and staff should remain where they are and not go to class until further notice,” it stated. A few minutes later, a follow-up announcement ensued. “We are no longer transitioning to third period at this time,” it stated. 

Budget Manager Silvia Griswold communicated with administrators to secure areas on campus. “The winds were very strong and it was unsafe to be outside because trees and other things can dislodge,” she said. “(The administrators) wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and asked students to shelter inside until further notice. All the administrators went outside at lunch to make sure students were sheltering in place.”

The winds were very strong and it was unsafe to be outside because trees and other things can dislodge

— Budget Manager Silvia Griswold

The outages elicited mixed reactions from students. Sophomore Melinda Huang noted the unprecedented nature of the outage. “The winds have been super strong,” she said. “It’s been scary having to take cover because (this) has never happened to me before.” Others, such as freshman Tom Scheib, were more relaxed. “It was windy, but there are people in charge to make sure that the problems don’t get too big,” he said. 

At 1:11 p.m., administrators announced that students should go to class immediately, and that they would not be allowed out unless for emergency bathroom breaks. “Students should go directly to third period and avoid any areas with trees and only using open walkways,” they said. 

At 1:15 p.m., power went out for the southern end of campus, which had not lost power during the previous outage.