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City Hall hosts mudslide seminar for hillside residents

October 22, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, The Valley Sun

Against a backdrop of cloudy skies and light rainfall, hillside residents gathered Tuesday night at La Cañada Flintridge City Hall to hear from county officials how best to prepare for the rainy — and in their case, potentially muddy — season.

Topping the agenda were some new sources of information in time of trouble and before it starts.

Those living near last year's Station fire burn areas are encouraged to bookmark dpwcare.org on their computers. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works' Coordinated Area Recovery Effort website is an information clearinghouse that includes progress updates for flood control basin cleanouts, guidance for protecting homes from debris flows, contact information for a variety of public agencies and, when necessary, breaking safety condition alerts.

Meanwhile, L.A. County Sheriff's Department Capt. Dave Silversparre encouraged residents to register for nixle.com, a service that allows officials to text message and e-mail users with instant updates on weather conditions, road closures and safety protocols.

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Silversparre also introduced a color-coded debris flow threat alert system ranging from conditions green, meaning no safety restrictions, to red, when mandatory evacuation orders are in effect.

"We've made great strides to create maps and analyze situations ahead of time" down to the level of detail of differing threats to specific homes in the same area, he said. Also, "I've been at the table with executives discussing how fast you can get back safely. They're taking this very seriously and understand and have sympathy for folks who live in this area.

Michael Miranda, an L.A. Department of Public Works associate civil engineer who has personally advised hundreds of hillside dwellers on how to protect their homes, focused on all the work this year that's gone into preparing for the winter rainy season.

County officials have already removed some 400,000 cubic yards of sediment from debris basins in and around La Cañada Flintridge, said Miranda, and are expanding their capacities, with work to expand the Mullally debris basin by nearly 50% almost completed.

Miranda said the county is doing its best not to inconvenience residents while maintaining basins and selecting sediment placement sites.

"We have a limited amount of space and a lot of material," he said, adding that K-rail barrier placements, though anything but pretty, will have to remain in place at least three more years.

"They're not always the most pleasant item to see day-in and day-out, but what I can say is they're placed with a lot of forethought and, inconvenient as they might be, they're truly there to protect your home and family," Mirandes said.

Some 15 residents stayed throughout the presentation and later asked about specific planning efforts for their neighborhoods.

City Director of Public Works Edward Hitti said residents wanting free sandbags or copies of a homeowner's guide to debris and erosion protection (also available at dpwcare.org) should call City Hall at (818) 790-8880.

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