Riding Out the Storm

Words by Sheri Baer

Photos by Gino De Grandis

Words by Sheri Baer

When the Peninsula got bombarded by atmospheric rivers, extended power outages and toppling trees, the natural instinct was to pull out the camping lanterns and hunker down inside. Unless you’re PUNCH photographer Gino De Grandis. For Gino, news of an impending bomb cyclone meant “Go!” time. “I drove 320 miles in two days just looking for mudslides, fallen trees and boulders,” he recounts. “Over the course of one storm week, I counted 760 mudslides just in San Mateo County.”

A veteran storm chaser for 18 years, Gino typically hits the road in tandem with the U.S. tornado season, but in an unexpected twist, this winter and early spring found him charging out the door from his San Mateo home. Recruited by the County to help document and assess damage, Gino’s assignments took him from Daly City almost to Santa Cruz.

What’s it like to chase storms right where you live? “It’s perfect because I don’t have to drive to Oklahoma or Kansas or South Dakota,” Gino says. “The reason I get called is because nobody else wants to go out there. Personally, I love the rain and the wind but just because you’re not afraid, it doesn’t mean something can’t happen to you. You have to be very, very prepared and very careful.”