Burbank city employees getting a dry run on rainstorm preparedness

This week's El Niño-generated storms provided Burbank city employees a dry run, so to speak, at addressing some of the challenges that come with heavy rains.

As of Thursday, the city had received slightly more than 3 inches of rain this month, according to the National Weather Service, close to three times as much as it saw in all of January 2014. The bulk of the precipitation came Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Public Works Department — which provides residents with up to 25 pre-filled sandbags for free and has distributed more than 8,000 this season — at one point ran out.

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"Tuesday alone they handed out more than 3,000 sandbags," city spokesman Drew Sugars said.

Eric Baumgardner, the city's emergency management coordinator, said the first of what could be many winter storms also gave workers an opportunity to "kick the tires" on their preparations. Most of the issues seen in Burbank, such as erosion, were typical of a strong one-day storm, Baumgardner said.

But as El Niño storms continue, there could be an onslaught of rain with fewer dry days in between, he said — which could saturate the city's hillsides "like a sponge" and bring bigger problems.

ElNinoReady.org, a website launched by Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena this fall, provides information on sandbag use and precautions residents can take to prepare for wetter-than-average weather. Residents can also sign up for emergency alerts on the site.

There were no emergency calls for rain-related issues on private property this week, Baumgardner said, an indication that "people are heeding the warnings."

"We want people to get sandbags before they need them, not when they need them," he said.

RELATED: Where to get sandbags in the L.A. area to defend against El Niño storms

Garland writes for Times Community News.

chad.garland@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 10, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "A city's dry run on storm preparedness - Burbank employees address challenges posed by heavy rains." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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