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California Prepares for Winter Rains to Flood Burned Areas

SACRAMENTO, California, December 10, 2007 (ENS) – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has directed the California Office of Emergency Services to prepare for the upcoming weather conditions that pose a serious threat of flooding, particularly in areas where the Southern California wildfires recently burned more than half a million acres from Los Angeles to south of San Diego.

The Office of Emergency Services is working with state and local officials to pre-position emergency assets, including swift water recue teams, watercraft and California National Guard helicopters.

The state has opened emergency operations centers in Sacramento and Los Alamitos.

“Projected weather patterns in Southern California have caused us to raise our level of preparedness and pre-position emergency assets, particularly in response to the threat of floods that follow a devastating wildfire,” said the governor.

“I encourage people in dangerous areas to take every precaution; prepare for the rains, review and update your family emergency plans and identify safe routes to higher ground. It is also important to monitor the latest weather reports and listen for any warnings or instructions from local officials,” Schwarzenegger said.

Using the AlertSanDiego System, the County of San Diego Friday warned 1,473 residents of the Poomacha Fire burn area, by phone, of the potential for mud flows and flooding.
Firefighter at the Poomacha wildfire which burned more than 49,000 acres near San Diego in October and November. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

The County ALERT Flood Warning System has determined that rainfall rates in the area have reached intensity levels sufficient to cause minor debris flows.

Additionally, Governor Schwarzenegger has offered to deploy emergency resources from California to the states of Oregon and Washington in response to the extreme weather that occured in the Pacific Northwest last week.

The Office of Emergency Services, OES, is working closely with the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and county emergency managers in Southern California through regular conference calls to identify potential resource needs and issues.

Staff in the OES Southern Region are reviewing the region’s concept of operations for winter weather emergencies.

In response to the rains and the activation of the Orange and San Bernardino County Emergency Operations Centers, OES activated its Regional Emergency Operations Center at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos and the State Operations Center at OES Headquarters in Sacramento.

OES is also coordinating with the California National Guard to place pilots and equipment on standby. Four Guard helicopters equipped with swift water rescue equipment were pre-deployed to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos on Friday.

The Department of Water Resources has pre-positioned flood-fighting supplies at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

Property owners in Fallbrook, Valley Center, Ramona and Dulzura can pick up free sand, sandbags, fiber rolls and seed mix at four county erosion control centers.

The California Conservation Corps, in support and coordination with federal and local partners, have also been actively sandbagging in burn areas where mudflow may occur.

The state’s water boards are working with local officials to protect water quality by keeping ash and debris out of waterways. By accelerating restoration of burned areas and ensuring least-impact debris removal, the waterways that carry drinking water can be better protected.

In coordination with OES staff at the Joint Field Office in Pasadena, FEMA has developed a contingency plan to coordinate federal support if needed and requested by OES and to notify both federal and state field staff of imminent threats related to the weather.

FEMA has also deployed a representative to the emergency operations center in Los Alamitos.

The Multi-Agency Support Group assembled by OES and FEMA has been using the reports developed by Burned Area Emergency Response teams after the fires to implement short-term actions to reduce the risk of mud and debris flows in and below areas impacted by the fires.

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