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County Prepares for Storms : Weather: One to two inches of rain is expected in coastal and inland areas by this afternoon, with more on the way.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Still drying out from heavy rain and flooding earlier this month, VenturaCounty is bracing for another series of storms set to move in today.

County flood control and other officials spent part of Thursday huddled in a meeting, deciding how best to prepare for the one to two inches of rain expected by this afternoon.

Work crews have spent much of the last 10 days clearing mud and debris from the county’s two dozen flood basins, and a new early warning system has been set up between public works and Sheriff’s Department personnel, said Hassan Kasraie, a county flood control manager.

“The area that seems to be kind of problematic if the rain amounts do happen will be the upper Ventura River,” he said. “The rest of the county, I don’t think we’re expecting any kind of major flooding.”

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Early last week, the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers, swollen with runoff from high county streams and tributaries, both overflowed their banks, resulting in one fatality, more than a dozen rescues and scores of evacuations.

Hillsides saturated with 10 or more inches of rain are most susceptible to mudslides, which caused millions of dollars in damages last week, Kasraie said.

The National Weather Service is predicting one to two inches of rain in the coastal and inland areas of Ventura County by this afternoon, with totals up to four inches in the mountains.

But it will not likely end there.

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“For Saturday, skies will remain mostly cloudy,” meteorologist Clay Morgan said. “But instead of steady rain, we’re expecting on-and-off-again showers, which will continue through Sunday.”

By Monday, yet another storm front from offshore is expected to hit the county. But weather service forecasters have not yet estimated how much more rain will follow.

Officials at the Calleguas Municipal Water District, which experienced moderate flooding when Lake Sherwood overflowed, spent the past week clearing storm drains and checking pipelines, maintenance and operations Manager George Mulligan said.

“We had very little damage during the last rains, but we did have to clear a couple of small washouts,” said Mulligan, whose district serves about 500,000 customers from Simi Valley to Oxnard.

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“What we’ve done is gone in and sandbagged everything, so we’re not expecting any problems,” he said.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross already has closed the four shelters it opened immediately following the Jan. 10 floods. But officials there are not taking any chances this weekend.

“What we’re doing is maintaining a close watch on the weather conditions,” Executive Director Brian Bolton said. “If need be, we can open another shelter within 10 minutes anywhere in the county.”

The American Red Cross Disaster Services Center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds is set to close at 6 p.m. today. But storm victims can still receive assistance at the chapter headquarters at 2355 Portola Road in Ventura, or may call (805) 339-2234 for help.

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“Disaster services will not end with the closing of the service center,” said disaster services Director Richard Rink. “We are simply consolidating services at one site in Ventura.”

The Red Cross has opened more than 1,500 family relief cases throughout California and has spent roughly $5 million on aid during the recent floods, Rink said. Nearly 300 Ventura County residents have taken shelter at Red Cross facilities this month, he said.

Correspondent Jan Stevens contributed to this report.


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