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LA Rain: Storms fuel mudslide anxiety, residents and officials get ready

Rainstorms are expected to bring in as many as 8 inches of rain to parts of Southern California in the next few days, and people across Los Angeles County are preparing for the potentially devastating effects so much water can bring. 

  • The L.A. Fire Department is making sand available at 33 stations for hillside residents; sandbags can be picked up at any LAFD station in the city. (See map below.)
  • Officials have cleared out debris basins and were prepositioning equipment and personnel in anticipation of possible landslides.
  • Residents in Glendora, beneath the area burned by January's Colby Fire, are laying down sandbags and making preparations for possible flooding.
  • Officials are putting up plastic awnings over the red carpet and tarps over the bleachers outside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre in preparation for Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

County officials said they will be closely monitoring areas that have experienced recent fires because of fears they will be more prone to debris and mudslides.
“We are anticipating a high possibility of mud and debris flows based on these current forecasts — particularly for Friday — in some of the at-risk areas, which really include the burn areas up along the foothills,” said Robert Spencer, chief of public affairs for the L.A. County Department of Public Works.

Spencer said that the department would be closely monitoring areas in Glendora near where the Colby Fire burned in January, as well as sites in Monrovia, Castaic and La Cañada Flintridge. All are places that experienced wildfires in recent years. The department also released on Wednesday morning a potential forecast of debris and mudflows in the area (see table embedded below).

L.A. County Debris and Mudflow Potential Forecast

Shoveling in

On Wednesday morning, homeowners in Glendora were waiting to see what the rains washed downhill.

Alan Chou, who has owned his property since September, had stacked a wall of sandbags three high, in an attempt to protect his land. He said he's been prepared for a month and a half.

"We've done what we can, and we're just hoping for the best. Mother Nature has her plans, and she's going to win either way. She'll do what she wants to do," Chou said.

Likewise, Spencer said the Department of Public Works has been prepared for months, with flood controls already in place by the official Oct. 15 start of the storm season. As the Colby fire necessitated additional steps be taken to mitigate potential debris slides, Spencer said the county advised the cities of Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia on the placement of protective rails that are designed to keep debris on streets; deployed engineers to give advice to about 200 homeowners on how to protect their properties; and cleared out six debris basins so that they would be fully capable of catching rubble. 

Officials for the L.A. Fire Department said they were urging residents to prepare for the rains. To help, each local fire station in the city of Los Angeles will have empty sandbags available for residents. Homeowners will be able to get sand at 33 of the stations and at locations for the Bureau of Street Services. 

Once the rain begins, officials say the department will respond to areas that need them.

"If there is any significant flooding, then resources will be pre-deployed and ready to respond to those areas and help in any way that is needed," said Katherine Main, an LAFD spokeswoman. 

Protecting the Red Carpet

It's a big weekend in Hollywood, with the Oscars set to air on Sunday evening. Producers for the Academy Awards said they were keeping close tabs on weather forecasts and made the decision on Sunday to begin preparing for rain. 

"We are covering all the carpet with plastic; we're putting up the rain structures; we are battening down the hatches for wind and weather. We'll be ready to keep people dry," said Joe Lewis, associate producer of arrivals, pre-show and red carpet for the Oscars. 

Oscar tweet

Lewis said that if the rain continues past a certain point on Saturday evening, the structures would remain in place. It wouldn't be the first time the award show happened during a downpour. 

"I think a more fair question would be, 'Has there ever not been rain at the Oscars,'" Lewis said. "Last year was the first year in the last 12 years that it's not rained."

Do you worry about mudslides or flooding? What are you doing to get ready? Share your comments below, or talk to us on our Facebook page or on Twitter ("@" mention @KPCC).