By Pat KRAMER
Southern California has had a higher-than-average rainfall this winter and with the rain can come trouble.
While heavy rain and flash flooding is uncommon for the local region, when those rainstorms do arrive – like February’s rains – the consequences can range from heavy traffic with accidents to property damage from flooding. After the wildfires many areas experienced in 2016, hillsides are now unstable and this promotes the possibility of landslides, mudflows and boulders in the road.
While state and local officials from the weather service and other agencies continue to warn people of dangers from moving water, there is a curiosity factor that brings certain people out during major storms while still others just continue to ignore the warnings.
Among these warnings is one regarding walking through floodwaters. Most people underestimate the force and power of moving water. According to the National Weather Service, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of all flood-related drownings occur from a vehicle being driven into hazardous floodwater. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths comes from people walking into or near floodwaters.
Many people don’t know that a mere six inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock over an adult. Twelve inches of rushing water can carry away a small car while 24 inches of rushing water will carry away almost any type of vehicle.
Many of the deaths from drowning occur in automobiles when they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn that the road ahead is flooded.
When a major storm with rainfall has occurred, motorists and hikers should be extra vigilant. Here are some safety tips from the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management to maintain safety through the winter’s rains:
• Listen to the local radio stations or watch television for warnings about storm and/or heavy rainfall in local areas regarding emergency public information and instructions.
• Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in the water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris mudflow upstream. A trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
• Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
• Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudflow.
• Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
• If a landslide and/or debris flow occurs, danger is imminent; quickly move away from the path of the slide. Getting out of the path of the slide and/or debris mudflow is the best protection. Move to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run to the nearest shelter and take cover.
• If personal property is damaged or compromised, consult a professional geotechnical expert for advice on the landslide and or corrective actions that can be taken.
By using caution and staying off the roads during heavy rains, the increased risks of being involved in an accident can be avoided this winter.