LOS ANGELES --- The U.S. Geological Survey this week issued a warning that severe mudslides are highly likely this winter in Southern California foothill communities hit by recent fires.
The Los Angeles Times reported that scientists have identified Pacoima Canyon, Big Tujunga Canyon, the Arroyo Seco, the West Fork of the San Gabriel River and Devils Canyon as being at particular risk. Those areas will see an 80 percent chance of flows.
In some conditions, flows could contain as much as 100,000 cubic yards of debris, scientists forecast. That's enough to cover a football field with mud and rock about 60 feet deep.
Of course, the threat of mudslides is even more pronounced in earthquake country. That fact was amplified in international headlines this week. Mudslides triggered by last week's Indonesian earthquake have wiped out an entire valley of villages on the island of Sumatra. So now is a good time to revisit some mudslide safety tips from the American Red Cross.
What to do during intense storms:
- Stay alert and awake. Many debris-flow fatalities occur when people are sleeping. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or portable, battery-powered radio or television for warnings of intense rainfall. Be aware that intense, short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall and damp weather.
- If you are in areas susceptible to mudslides and debris flows, consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Remember that driving during an intense storm can be hazardous. If you remain, move to a second story if possible. Staying out of the path of a mudslide or debris flow saves lives.
- Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle of flowing or falling mud or debris may precede larger landslides. Moving debris can flow quickly and sometimes without warning.
- If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and for a change from clear to muddy water. Such changes may indicate mudslide activity upstream, so be prepared to move quickly. Don't delay! Save yourself, not your belongings.
- Be especially alert when driving. Embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to mudslides. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks, and other indications of possible debris flows.
Prepare a disaster supply kit for home and car, including:
- First aid kit and essential medications
- Canned food and can opener
- At least three gallons of water per person, per day
- Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags
- Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
- Special items for infants, elderly or family members with a disability
- Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. You will need a professional to turn them back on.
Source: American Red Cross