As I write this, the aging infrastructure of the Los Angeles County flood control system is seeing its limits tested. Built in 1915, the massive system of ditches is supposed to route mud, rain, and debris out of streets and into steel and cement traps that feed drainpipes into the Pacific.
Massive storms have hit Southern California in the last few days with more expected Wednesday evening. So far the region has seen wind gusts as high as 80 MPH, with hail, sleet, waterspouts, tornadoes, and torrential thunderstorms that have led to flooding and mudslides, particularly in the Long Beach and Orange County areas.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has urged Southern Californians to avoid unnecessary travel, as road conditions are very dangerous, due to high winds, flooding and mudflows.
Of greatest concern to authorities are the communities near the San Gabriel Mountains where much of the flood control system is centered. Between Big Tujunga Canyon and Altadena, flood control crews are unjamming mud, debris and sludge from the area’s 30 catch basins to keep the storm flow steady into the Pacific. The fear however, is that they could become overwhelmed, especially since vegetation still has yet to recover from last year’s wildfires and have created the worst mud flows in California history.
Folks, this is real. If you live in Southern California and you are lucky enough to still have power and read this, please listen to the mayor and stay at home. Understand that any area at this point may be asked to evacuate. With water rescue teams set up along the LA River, and expecting the worst, this could even mean places like Sherman Oaks or downtown Los Angeles.
More storms are coming soon, but right now, you have a chance to prepare if you aren’t ready. I’m going to ask the questions that need to be asked if you have not done so already:
Do you have at least three days of food and water in your home?
Do you have transportation if you are asked to evacuate?
Are there concerns you might have for family or neighbors with special needs, such as people with mobility issues, or small children?
Please address these things while you can, and otherwise, I ask that you tune in to local radio or television so that you can monitor events as they happen.