Major storm prompts readiness for floods, emergency procedures in place.
Governor Schwarzenegger has directed the state Office of Emergency Services (OES) to prepare for heavy rain, snow, wind and flooding in Southern California and throughout the state where the threat of hazardous conditions has been elevated.
“Due to heavy storms that are expected in Southern California and other parts of the state this weekend, we are raising our level of preparedness in anticipation of flooding and other extreme conditions. The state is working with federal and local officials to ensure that emergency personnel and equipment are ready to deploy,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Californians in at-risk areas should take every precaution — prepare for the weather, review your emergency plans, monitor the latest weather reports and listen for any warnings or instructions from local officials.”
On Friday, OES will activate its Regional Emergency Operations Center in Los Alamitos and the State Operations Center at OES Headquarters in Sacramento.
To prepare for maximum readiness, OES is working closely with all state agencies including the California National Guard to evaluate and prepare any resources that may be needed. The state is also coordinating with local emergency officials, along with the Coast Guard and U.S. Military.
Consistent with emergency planning coordinated by OES, state agencies can respond immediately to situations that fall within their statutory authorities. For example, because it is charged with maintaining the state’s highway system, Caltrans automatically checks the integrity of state highways, bridges and overpasses after earthquakes, fires and other emergencies.
In addition to its ability to “mission task” state agencies, OES can call upon the resources of law enforcement, fire, public works and other agencies in cities and counties outside the impacted area through the state’s mutual aid system, which includes the participation of all 58 counties.
To prepare for this weekend’s extreme weather, OES is conducting daily conference calls with the National Weather Service, the River Forecast Office and the Department of Water Resources, as well as duty officers from OES regions, branches and divisions. OES is also conducting conference calls with county emergency officials to identify potential resource needs and emergency management issues and with appropriate state agencies to ensure a coordinated state response in support of local government.
The state is expecting a powerful series of storms that could produce blizzard conditions in the higher elevations of the Sierra, with wind gusts of more than 100 miles per hour and 8 to 10 feet of snow forecast at above 7,000 feet. Localized flooding throughout the state is possible, particularly in coastal, urban and burn areas. Flood watches and warnings in the burn areas of Southern California, with mud and debris flows, are also possible. Rivers throughout the state are expected to rise quickly from Thursday night through Sunday.
The Governor today issued the following recommendations for Californians to prepare:
Prepare or update their family emergency plans and make sure their loved ones know the plan.
- Identify a meeting place outside your neighborhood.
- Make sure family members know where to go to re-unite if you’re separated.
- Make arrangements for your pets before the watch or warning.
- Listen to the radio, watch television or monitor the Internet for the latest weather information and instructions from local officials.
- Update emergency supply kits by including:
- Drinking water
- Food for your family
- Battery-operated flashlights and radios
- First aid kit and book
- Warming clothing
- Learn the difference between flash flood watches and flash flood warnings.
- Teach your children to avoid creeks, canyons, drainage control channels and washes at all times.
- Drive only when necessary.
- Meet with your neighbors to discuss their plans and how you can help one another.
- Contact county flood control personnel and other experts to learn what actions you can take, including sandbagging, to protect your property from small mudflows.
In the wake of the Southern California wildfires, Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams were assembled with officials from OES, the California Department of Water Resources, state departments within the California Environmental Protection Agency and federal agencies. Their mission was to evaluate the impacts of the fires on watersheds and to help local, state and federal disaster officials create a comprehensive remediation and restoration plan. As BAER teams developed reports, post-fire erosion control work was initiated throughout the burn areas. These efforts included the filling and placing of thousands of sandbags, the construction of barriers to protect homes and the clearing of debris from hundreds of culverts and miles of streambeds and canyons.
OES also recommends the following actions in response to threats of flooding:
- If the BAER teams or other officials have determined that your home or business is in an area at risk to flash floods and debris flows and a warning is issued, make plans to stay with friends or relatives until the watch or warning is over.
- If you’re in a canyon, burn area or other location subject to flooding, mudflows and debris flow, stay alert and monitor the weather, particularly at night.
- Listen for crackling trees, boulders knocking together and other sounds that might indicate that debris or mudflow is occurring.
- Watch for other signs of large mud and debris flows, including small mud and debris flows, sudden increases and decreases in water flow and changes in the clarity of the water in the stream or channel.
- Evacuate immediately, preferably to higher ground, if you hear these sounds or see these signs.
For more information about emergency preparedness, please visit the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services website at www.oes.ca.gov.