One of the most effective, yet least expensive, defenses against El Niño is the humble sandbag.
When filled and stacked correctly, sandbags can redirect a low flow of coursing water away from your home, garage or garden.
For durability, choose polypropylene plastic mesh bags over burlap, fill halfway with sand or, in a pinch, garden soil, and neatly fold the top of the bag over without tying it, for a better seal. Various city agencies, and all Los Angeles County fire departments, offer a limited number of sandbags, and often fill-it-yourself sand, for free. They can also be purchased from online sources or hardware stores.
Here are some free resources we found. Hours and days vary, and supplies and locations can change, so check before heading out:
Los Angeles: All city fire stations carry sandbags, with a limit of 25. You can also find a list of fire stations that have sand as well at the Bureau of Street Services. http://bss.lacity.org/Resurfacing/storm.htm
Los Angeles County: All county fire stations carry sandbags, with a limit of 25. Some stations also offer sand and shovels to fill your own. www.dpw.lacounty.gov/dsg/sandbags/
Santa Monica: All fire stations offer free unfilled sandbags; free sand is at Memorial Park, 1401 Olympic Blvd., near the tennis courts parking lot. For free pre-filled sandbags, residents can go to Streets Department Building No. 8, 2500 Michigan Ave.www.smgov.net/departments/oem
Burbank: The Department of Public Works offers for free 25 pre-filled sandbags per address per year, with proof of residency, at 124 S. Lake St. www.burbankca.gov/departments/public-works/flood-control
Pasadena: Fire Stations 37 and 38 currently offer free sandbags and sand with proof of residency, limited to 10 bags per trip. The number of locations may increase as the season progresses. www.cityofpasadena.net/fire/elnino
Redondo Beach: The Public Works Department provides free sandbags and sand for residents only at the City Yard, 545 N. Gertruda Ave. www.redondo.org
Long Beach: The Public Works Department offers free sandbags at Fire Stations 7, 12 and 14, and free sand at the Public Works Service Yard, 1651 San Francisco Ave. www.longbeach.gov/fire/station-locations