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City Manager Updates Rotary About Mudslide Preparation 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


City Manager Elaine Aguilar was the speaker at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting, and spent nearly the entire time updating Rotarians on the City’s preparations for the upcoming rainy season’s anticipated mudslides.

Ms. Aguilar handed out print copies of the PowerPoint presentation that the City is using to educate residents about the preparations, what they (the residents) can do to prepare themselves, and useful resources to keep informed (the PowerPoint presentation is expected to be available at SierraMadreNews.Net by this weekend). 

 Ms. Aguilar noted that mudslides is actually something of a misnomer, in that what residents of Sierra Madre will actually see is debris flow, filled with brush, rocks, and anything else that is in the path of the mud as it starts to come down the hill.  “We know it’s going to come, it’s just a matter of when the rain saturates the soil enough, we know it’s going to come down.”

She pointed out that even before the soil had cooled after the April fire, our Public Works department was working with State and County agencies to determine the extent of the damage and to anticipate what will need to be done in preparation for the rainy season.  Noting that Sierra Madre does not have geologists and slope stabilization specialists on staff, Ms. Aguilar stated that the City has been working very closely with LA County, which does have these resources. 

Ms. Aguilar stated that seeding was not an option, in that the time needed for the seed to grow and take root was not available, and the anticipated rains would just have washed the seeds down the hill with the mud and debris.

 According to the City Manager, sixteen areas with the potential for debris flow have been identified, and of those sixteen, only five have basins that can catch the debris.  She noted that two of those basins have been identified as being lacking in capacity in a worst case scenario.  The Sturtevant debris basin, which was identified as being severely under capacity is being expanded, and all debris basins are being cleared to maximize existing capacity.  “Our biggest concern though, is the eleven areas that were identified that will discharge onto public and private property, and there’s nothing blocking it.”

 According to Aguilar, K-rails will begin appearing in the canyon areas in the next few days, designed to divert mud flow into the streets for clean-up.  A couple areas where the debris is expected to be most severe will receive taller rail and post barriers designed to withstand a greater onslaught.

 A flag system will be posted at intersections in neighborhoods, with green, yellow, and red flags indicating the current weather situation, with red flags meaning it’s time to get out of your home.  The City is going to encourage residents to take action according to two programs, one called Ready for Seven, the other called Ready, Set, Go.  Ready for Seven encourages residents to be prepared to be without utilities or transportation for a period of seven days, i.e., back up water, canned goods, etc.  The Ready, Set, Go program is intended to be used in the event of evacuation.  Plan ahead (Be ready), so that when it’s time, you can get set to evacuate as initial warnings are issued, and go when asked to evacuate.  Brochures and information on both programs will be available by contacting the City.

 Aguilar noted that there are only twelve public works employees, who will be working alternating twelve hour shifts, meaning six staffers to cover the eleven identified problem areas.  Outside assistance will be called in, and agreements have been reached with other local communities to help out, but residents should anticipate that there may be extended delays getting help to some areas, and in getting the streets cleared.  A big factor will be residents getting their cars off the streets in the crowded Canyon area, so that the large backhoes and hauling equipment have room to maneuver effectively.  Aguilar asked residents to be prepared, to have plans in place as to where they can put their vehicles during storms in order to help the clean-up operations go smoothly.  She also noted that shelters will be set up within the City where people will be able to sleep, shower and get food.

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