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Schwarzenegger weighs in on flood preparation

November 25, 2008 | 12:16 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today directed the state's Office of Emergency Services to prepare for potential flooding in Southern California burn areas that could receive heavy rainfall as early as this afternoon.

The governor's office said the state will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help local agencies provide assistance. The areas most at risk include portions of Orange County, Sylmar and Santa Barbara County, which were affected by the Freeway Complex, Sayre and Tea fires, respectively, in recent weeks.

“The recent fires have left many communities, particularly those near and below steep canyons, very vulnerable to flooding, mud-flows and debris-flows,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “The state stands ready to help local governments protect lives and property. It’s also important that residents of those communities take steps to prepare now if they haven’t already done so and evacuate immediately when asked to do so by local authorities.”

Forecasters predict as much as half an inch of rain per hour this afternoon through Wednesday evening when the large storm will be at its strongest. Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties remain on flood watch from this afternoon through Wednesday evening.

The storm will be the region's first major rainfall since Feb. 24 when it receive 0.46 inches of rain. At the request of the Office of Emergency Services, the state Department of Water Resources is providing flood-fighting materials to Santa Barbara County and technical advisers to Yorba Linda. The California Conservation Corps also is assisting Yorba Linda with its flood-fight preparedness efforts. Caltrans was asked to provide K-rails (concrete barriers), and the cranes to move them, to keep mud-flow away from homes and roads.

Throughout Los Angeles County, fire stations have sandbags and sand available for residents who want to fortify their homes against possible slides. Joint state and federal burn area recovery teams also were deployed to assess the risk of potential erosion, flooding, mud-flows and debris-flows in and around burn areas, the governor's office said.

"People always wait until it starts raining, and then they're out there in the rain and the debris is coming, and they start trying to dike and put these sandbags up," said Inspector Ron Haralson, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "We always say, do it now, we know the forecast, rain is coming ... be prepared."

In preparation for possible flooding, debris-flows and mud-flows, state and federal officials recommend that the public:

  • Review family emergency plans and update emergency contact lists.
  • Check and replenish emergency supply kits.
  • Store food, water and other emergency supplies in cars.
  • Identify safe routes from their houses to safe ground.
  • Keep cars fueled.
  • Waterproof homes with plywood, plastic sheeting and other building materials.
  • Build sandbag barriers and dig trenches.
  • Move valuable items to the upper floors of homes.
  • Monitor the weather and evacuate before the threat of mud-flows and flooding is imminent.
  • When evacuating, disconnect all electrical appliances and, if advised by a utility company, shut off electrical circuits at the fuse panel and gas service at the meter.
  • Have immunization records handy or at least be aware of your last tetanus shot.
  • Bathtubs and sinks can store fresh water if they first are sanitized with diluted bleach and rinsed to be odor free. Also fill empty plastic soda bottles with clean water.
  • Move outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.
  • Plugs or back-flow valves installed in drains, toilets and other sewer connections can prevent floodwaters from entering.

Additional information is available at www.oes.ca.gov and www.fema.gov.  Check here to find your local fire station.

-- Tami Abdollah

Photo: Steve Yeater/Associated Press