Are Local Government Agencies Prepared for El Niño?

Are our local government agencies prepared for El Niño? That was the focus of a State oversight hearing in Van Nuys. But, first what can we expect from this warm water pattern? The man who coined phrases like “Godzilla El Niño” and “Too Big To Fail” now says it may not be as advertised. JPL Research Scientist Bill Patzert says we can expect rain, but isn’t describing the intensity of the storms as he has with terms like Godzilla. Says Patzert, 

“El Niños are not 10 inches a day of rainfall. They tend to be more frequent storms of an inch or inch and a half over many many months.”

Regardless of what may come L.A. County Department of Public Works officials say they are working to keep County flood channels fully functional. Says Deputy Director Gary Hildebrand, his department is doing that by "assuring they are in proper repair, properly maintained, properly clear of any trash and debris."

That’s good for preventing floods, but he’s concerned about Devil’s Gate Dam. Back in 2009, after the Station Fire, sediment from the burned hillsides flowed into the reservoir. If a series of storms comes through the area and there’s not enough time to clear out sediment between them the County says there could be flooding in the Arroyo Seco and, though they have a project on the drawing boards to haul away sediment, it may not come in time.

Thus, the concern. They’re working on it.

Former LA Fire Chief Jim Featherstone heads up the city’s Emergency Management Department. Monday he laid out a plan for the Mayor on what the city will do if bad rains come. His team looked at the recent floods in South Carolina and messaging like when that state’s governor said things like “Turn Around Don’t Drown!” 

Those words and others will be part of a general overall Educational campaign you’ll see on social media and maybe outdoor advertising. But, when El Nino triggered rain clouds start to form Featherstone says, “72 hours out we start our ‘just in time’ messaging … more pointed… more direct.”

The city will work closely with the National Weather Service, push out forecasts and activate the Emergency Operations Center at Level One.

24-hours out, The City will push out information on road or canyon closures, weather watches, advisories, warnings, evacuation information and staffing at the Emergency Operations Center may be pushed to Level 2 or Level 3. Level 3 is considered serious.

While, local officials are saying “we’re prepared” or getting there, Bill Patzert reminds us “This El Niño is definitely the real deal.”

RESOURCES:

LA County Fire Department www.fire.lacounty.gov

LA County Public Health www.publichealth.lacounty.gov www.publichealth.lacounty.gov

Southern California Edison www.sce.com/wps/portal/home/safety/family/outdoor-tip

Flood, Debris and Erosion Control: 

www.ladpw.org/wmd/homeowners Sandbag Distribution Locations www.dpwcare.org/sandbags www.dpwcare.org/sandbagswww.dpwcare.org/sandbags

TIPS FROM THE L.A. COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS:

*Monitor radio and TV news closely for information about weather conditions, flooding in your area and safety precautions being advised. 

*Be prepared to leave immediately if an evacuation is ordered. Have alternate evacuation routes out of your neighborhood. 

*Stay away from flood channels and flowing rivers. You could be knocked off your feet in as little as six inches of water.

*Don’t try to cross flooded areas and never enter moving water. Turn around—don’t drown. 

*Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms and factories. 

*If your home has been flooded, protect your family’s health by cleaning up right away. 

*Throw out foods and medicines that may have been affected. 

*Stay away from steep slopes that may become unstable when saturated. 

*Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides. 

*If trapped in your vehicle, stay with it. If possible, relocate to the hood if water continues to rise.  

*Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to hazards. 

*Report small problems as soon as they occur so they don’t turn into bigger problems.

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