California Prepares for Potential Flooding

Emergency managers in California's southern region discuss weather, preparedness, response and recovery issues.

by / November 26, 2008

Due to the potential for flooding, mud flows and debris in and around the Freeway, Sayre and Tea fire burn areas, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has directed his Office of Emergency Services (OES) to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and prepare to help local agencies if assistance from the state is needed as a result of the forecast this week by the National Weather Service (NWS).

"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. "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."

In response to the weather forecast, OES has coordinated conference calls with representatives from FEMA, the NWS and emergency managers in the state's 11-county southern region to discuss weather, preparedness, response and recovery issues.

OES has also tasked the Department of Water Resources to provide flood fighting materials to Santa Barbara County and technical advisors to the city of Yorba Linda; tasked the California Conservation Corps to assist Yorba Linda with its flood fight preparedness efforts; and asked Caltrans to support the city by providing K-rails to keep mud flow away from homes and roads and cranes to move the K-rails.

Working with FEMA, OES has deployed joint state-federal Burn Area Recovery Teams to assess the potential for erosion, flooding, mud flows and debris flows in and around the burn areas of the recent fires and to make recommendations on possible mitigation measures.

As the state agency responsible for coordinating the state's response to major emergencies in support of local government, OES has the delegated authority to task state agencies to provide resources and services that are outside their normal statutory authority. OES is also responsible for coordinating the statewide mutual aid system for fire and rescue, law enforcement and emergency services. The system helps provide support to city and county agencies affected by an emergency when an incident threatens lives and property and is beyond their capabilities.

In preparation for possible flooding, debris flows and mud flows, state and federal officials recommend 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 their cars.
  • Identify safe routes from their houses to safe ground.
  • Keep their cars fueled.
  • Waterproof their homes with plywood, plastic sheeting and other building materials.
  • Build sandbag barriers and dig trenches.
  • Move valuable items to the upper floors of their homes.
  • Monitor the weather and evacuate well before the threat of mudflows and flooding is imminent.
  • When evacuating, disconnect all electrical appliances and, if advised by their 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 backflow valves installed in drains, toilets, and other sewer connections can prevent floodwaters from entering.