By Councilmember Bill Miranda
Before the Thomas Fire and Rye Fire began blazing through Southern California, City of Santa Clarita employees and first responders were meeting as part of an Inclement Weather Preparedness Team to discuss preparation for possible floods and mudslides.
This topic may seem strange to discuss when Los Angeles County has been experiencing a dry rainfall season with no prediction of heavy rains, however, precaution is necessary. History has taught us that Los Angeles County, including Santa Clarita, is no stranger to extreme situations, such as “atmospheric rivers” which cause tremendous amounts of rain in a short period of time. This situation becomes dangerous when combined with recently burned areas that lack vegetation to hold back the layers of ash, soot, dirt and debris that come rolling down hills and overflowing washes when it rains.
Mudslides and floods can be very destructive. We want to do everything we can to reduce the impact unpredicted heavy rains may have on our landscape, parks, open spaces, streets, your homes, and businesses in Santa Clarita.
As a result, we’ve started our preparedness efforts early. Staff has already completed several preventive measures, such as clearing storm drains, conducting city facility inspections, removing problematic trees and clearing debris on the streets. In addition to these measures, staff continues to proactively inspect areas of the City that may be susceptible during heavy rain fall. Street sweeping is conducted weekly in the fall and winter to help minimize impacts to the storm drain system. We’ve also identified vulnerable locations in the City that could require extra attention during heavy rains.
In addition to preparing for wet weather on our streets, in our neighborhoods and in our open space, our staff is also trained to respond in the City emergency operations center. From this location, City staff will coordinate to support field crews and partner with agencies during an emergency to push out crucial emergency information.
As City staff is preparing for heavy rains, I’d like to encourage you and your family to do the same. It’s important, even life-saving, to plan in advance. You should have emergency supplies on hand such as a flashlight, food, water, backup phone charger, extra clothing and a first aid kit. Don’t forget to include your pet emergency supplies. Be familiar with how to turn off the utilities in your home. Additionally, know the access routes in and out of your neighborhood.
Take a moment to conduct a property safety/hazard assessment. Clear out all private drains and rain gutters. If you have a rain barrel, check to make sure that the downspouts are clear of debris. It would also be a good idea to check your roof for any holes or loose tiles.
If you have a slope adjacent to your home, you should visually inspect the area for surface cracks as these may indicate slope movement which you do not want during heavy rainfall. If you do discover issues and are unsure of what to do, you may seek assistance by calling the City’s Engineering Permit Hotline at 661-284-4060.
Sandbags also play a crucial role in preventing water from entering your home. You can pick them up for free at local fire stations in Santa Clarita – up to 25 bags. Make sure to call in advance to check on the status of their availability. Feel free to visit the Ready for Rain website for a map of fire stations offering free sandbags in your area.
During the rain, be aware of roadway warnings and hazards while driving. If you see a flooded area, please do not walk or drive through it, just a few inches of water can sweep you off your feet. Keep away from downed power lines and electrical wires as well. In the event of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
Instead of hoping for the best, you should plan and prepare for the worst – the safety of our families depends on it. To stay informed and receive local emergency alerts, sign up at santa-clarita.com/ealerts or text SCEmergency to 888777.
Bill Miranda is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].