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Preparations Urged Before Next Storm

It’s the calm before the storm, and emergency-services officials are urging residents to take advantage of it while the sunshine lasts.

As weather experts predicted that another storm would buffet the San Fernando Valley this weekend, local officials warned homeowners, especially those in Topanga Canyon and other burn areas, to make sure they’re ready for the possibility of flooding, mudslides and road closures.

While the coming rains probably won’t match the 2.75 inches that fell Wednesday in Woodland Hills, Don Wolfe of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works said the downpour increased the danger even from moderate showers.

“The problem you have is that now you have a saturated area out there, and that really red-flags the area because once the rain falls it can’t be absorbed,” Wolfe said. “The rest of the water that hits on it runs off instead of soaking into the ground. It’s kind of ripe for debris flows.”

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Sandbags can be used as temporary protection from rampant water and mud and are available, along with instructions on how to use them, from local fire stations. Bags left out since last winter probably need to be replaced because they begin to deteriorate after several months.

A firefighter at the Topanga Canyon fire station said Thursday that there has been a rush on the station’s supply of bags.

“We’ve been doing nothing but giving out sandbags,” he said. “As fast as we get them, they’re gone. We had about a dozen people come in already today.”

Residents in hilly areas need to make sure storm drains and nearby creeks are cleared of debris so that water can pass easily.

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“If you’re on the hillsides, make sure you have the water running free out in the creek and then it’s kind of out of your hands,” said Topanga Town Council President Dale Robinette. “But if you can’t keep those creeks clear of rubbish and litter, there’s no way to accommodate that kind of water.”

Because rains may cause key roads to be closed or make travel unsafe, households need to keep emergency supplies on hand, including: no-cook, non-canned food, drinking water in closed containers, a first-aid kit, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries.

Wolfe advises residents to take advantage of government and other resources that will notify residents in advance of dangerous conditions.

“What we’re telling people is to make sure they stay tuned to the radio and the TV to make sure they know what’s going on,” he said. “And if they think they’re at risk, not to wait for officials to tell them to evacuate.”

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Residents should also have an emergency response plan in place and a bag packed with emergency provisions, he said.

Further, nobody should drive or walk through flooded intersections and drivers should use caution on rain-slick streets, authorities said. Many drivers have had to abandon their cars after stalling out in high water. That leaves their vehicles open to damage and themselves exposed to the dangers of water-choked streets.

On Wednesday, a Carson woman was sucked under a car by fast-moving currents and another woman was killed in Chatsworth after being struck by two cars at a rain-soaked intersection.

Detailed literature on storm preparation and other emergency precautions are available from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in Malibu: (310) 317-4321. Weather updates are provided by the National Weather Service: (805) 988-6610. A toll-free hot line offers flood insurance information: (800) 638-6620

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