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Bracing for the Storm : Residents Sandbag Property and Sheriff’s Department Puts Cities on Alert

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County residents sandbagged their property, and sheriff’s helicopters shooed homeless people out of the Ventura River bottom Tuesday as the county braced for a massive storm system heading for the coast.

While some forecasters predicted that the system--made up of storms from the tropics and the Arctic--would be slightly less severe than first feared, county emergency officials wanted to be better prepared than they were for February’s deadly rains.

On Feb. 12, heavy rains sent floodwaters through the county’s creek beds and canyons, forcing closure of most major freeways and killing three people--a couple who suffocated in a mudslide in Foster Park and a homeless man who was swept from his camp in the Ventura River bottom.

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County fire and sheriff’s emergency workers scrambled to rescue people from the roofs of campers and mobile homes that were deluged when the Ventura River broke over its banks and swept through the Ventura Beach RV Resort.

“I think we were caught by surprise last year, and we’ve had at least a day’s warning now that we’re going to be hit pretty hard,” said Wendy Haddock, assistant director of the sheriff’s office of emergency services. “We’re doing everything we did last time, but we’re doing it a day earlier.”

The Sheriff’s Department opened its emergency operations center, put helicopter crews on alert and issued warnings to all cities in the county that bad weather was on the way, she said.

They also warned that a storm surge, combined with a 6 1/2-foot high tide at 7 a.m. today, could cause flooding in some beachfront neighborhoods.

“Basically, we’re putting all our ducks in line,” she said. “We’ve already got sample (disaster) proclamations written up.”

On Monday, meteorologists feared that the storms could hit simultaneously and dump 3 to 5 inches of rain onto Ventura County.

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On Tuesday, the two had mixed, “slowed and become a bit disorganized, but it’s going to dump a lot of rain on us” by Thursday, said Terry Schaeffer, an agricultural meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “It looks like a good, healthy subtropical storm.”

Rainfall is expected to total 2 to 3 inches on the coast and 3 to 5 inches inland, he said.

Of the Hawaiian storm, Schaeffer said, “I term it the Pineapple Connection: from Hilo to Piru, that’s where the flow is going.”

Officials at the Ventura Beach RV Resort were taking no chances.

Park owner Nancy Hubbard said she was prepared to ask campers at more than 30 campsites to pull their rigs to higher ground if county flood control officials predicted that the storm would push the Ventura River over its banks.

“We’ve got notices out to all our guests that there’s a potential for flooding,” Hubbard said. “If the forecast dissipates at all, we’ll be OK. . . . If there’s any potential at all of any hazard, we will be closed. We do not want to do an evacuation in the middle of the night. We don’t want to put our guests in any danger at all.”

Meanwhile, RV park workers were sandbagging the park’s convenience store, restrooms and staff housing, preparing for the possibility of flooding.

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As they worked Tuesday afternoon, a sheriff’s helicopter clattered overhead, its loudspeaker blaring warnings to homeless people who live in the river bottom. The chopper crew warned that the storm was expected to hit early this morning and urged the people to leave the river bottom and seek shelter on higher ground.

County hydrologists were reluctant to predict where flooding would occur.

“It’s kind of hard to say,” said Hassan Kasraie, senior hydrologist for the Ventura County Flood Control District. “There are a lot of variables in there. The biggest variable in my mind is all the debris that comes down the watersheds, and that’s totally unpredictable.”

The February, 1992, flooding was made more intense by debris that clogged the drainage channels and forced the water to flow higher than it would have otherwise, he said.

Personnel at county fire stations were handing out sandbags and sand to anyone who wanted to build berms to protect property from flooding, and building supply companies also began selling the materials.

Times photographer Lawrence K. Ho contributed to this report.

Flood Risk

Areas of Ventura County susceptible to flooding in a severe storm

1. Wheeler Springs

2. Eastern Ojai Valley

3. Live Oak Acres

4. Seacliff

5. Pitas Pt.

6. Ventura River mouth

7. Santa Clara River mouth

8. Hollywood Beach

9. Intersection of Santa Clara and Central avenues

10. Confluence of Calleguas and Conejo creeks

11. Farmland adjacent to Conejo Creek

12. Low-lying beachfront houses

13. Newbury Road

14. Arroyo Santa Rosa tributary

15. Home Acres/Arroyo Simi

16. Anza Place

17. Arroyo Simi at Stearns St.

Sandbag Locations

Fire officials have released a list of stations where sandbags are available to control flooding. Ventura fire stations will supply up to 12 sandbags, and sand is available at the Ventura Maintenance Yard at the foot of Chrisman Avenue off Thompson Boulevard. In Oxnard, fire stations will have bags.

Those needing sand or sandbags for emergency situations may pick them up at the following locations. Call 911 for assistance if flooding is severe.

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Summit, 12727 Santa Paula-Ojai Road, Santa Paula

Ojai, 1201 Ojai Ave., Ojai

Meiners Oaks, 460 S. La Luna Ave., Ojai

Oak View, 15 Kunkle St., Oak View

Avenue, 5777 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura

Rincon, 5674 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Ventura

Saticoy, 12391 W. Telegraph Road, Santa Paula

Potrero, 830 S. Reino Road, Newbury Park

Arboles, 555 Avenida de los Arboles, Thousand Oaks

Oak Park, 855 N. Deerhill Road, Oak Park

Moorpark, 782 Moorpark Ave., Moorpark

Susana Knolls, 1262 Cypress St., Simi Valley

Tapo, 3265 N. Tapo St., Simi Valley

El Rio, 660 El Rio Drive, Oxnard

Mission Oaks, 5353 Santa Rosa Road, Camarillo

Port Hueneme, 304 2nd St., Port Hueneme

Camarillo, 2474 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo

Las Posas, 403 Valley Vista Drive, Camarillo

Malibu, 11677 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Bags and sand are also available from the following commercial supply companies:

Carlson’s Building Materials, 1538 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. 495-3711

Home Depot, 500 N. Ventu Park Road, Newbury Park. 498-2278

Home Depot, 2600 Vineyard Ave., Oxnard. 988-1911

Newton Building Materials, 11220 Azahar St., Saticoy. 647-3231

United Building Materials, 1212 Flynn Road, Camarillo. 484-4391

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