Southern California Storm Season Safety Guide

It has been a year since severe storms wreaked havoc in Northern California, leading to fatal flooding and power outages.

The state is currently experiencing another round of intense storms as the wet season begins, with Southern California being particularly affected. Along with these storms, there is also the potential for damaging winds, flash flooding, and landslides.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has taken action to prepare for anticipated storms by activating the State Operations Center. In response to the upcoming weather conditions, Newsom issued an emergency proclamation in San Diego and Ventura counties on January 23, 2024.

Over 20 million individuals are currently under flood watch in cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Jose. Collaboratively, the state and local partners are working tirelessly to deploy critical equipment and resources to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected communities.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is urging communities in California to take essential precautions before potential flooding occurs as the state prepares for potentially dangerous storms.

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Here are some simple steps that you and your loved ones can take to ensure your safety.

Evaluate Your Local Risk

Disasters will continue to occur in California, making it crucial to mitigate the risks before they happen. With its diverse landscapes, the state faces unique risks in different regions.

Your location plays a crucial role in determining the specific types of disasters that could occur in your area. It also significantly influences your evacuation plan and emergency routes. To better understand and mitigate these risks, you can assess the hazards in your region through the MyHazard website.

Be Aware of Emergency Routes

Knowing different ways to quickly and safely escape your area in the event of a flood is essential. If the primary road is blocked or deemed unsafe, having an alternate route is crucial. For example, if there is a flood in your vicinity, it is important to identify a route that avoids the water and leads to higher ground.

Follow the instructions of local authorities. If they tell you to evacuate or if you feel any danger, leave right away. If you have to evacuate, unplug all electrical appliances and turn off the electricity at the panel. If you have enough time and it’s safe, grab your essential personal belongings before leaving.

Be Ready for High Winds

Strong wind patterns in Southern California could result in the issuance of High Wind Watches. These watches serve as advisories for the potential occurrence of sustained and powerful winds, which have the capacity to topple trees, cause damage to electrical equipment, and lead to power outages. It is of utmost importance to make necessary preparations in advance whenever wind conditions are predicted.

Before a high-wind event, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure the stability of any structures in your backyard. If there are any dead trees near these structures, it is advisable to remove them in order to prevent any potential damage. Additionally, it is crucial to secure outdoor items that have the potential to be blown away by strong winds. Taking the time to close your windows with shutters can also provide an added level of protection.

If you find yourself outside during a severe weather event, it’s important to take immediate action to keep yourself safe. Seek shelter next to a strong building or find a suitable shelter away from your home. Avoid areas near windows or elevated spots like roofs, as they can pose a significant risk. Stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you come across a downed power line, make sure to report it immediately to the appropriate authorities.

Plan for Power Outages

Intense rain and strong winds are expected to bring about power outages throughout California. While a power outage may seem like a minor inconvenience, it has the potential to last for days and create hazardous conditions.

Being prepared for a power outage is essential to ensuring the comfort and safety of your home. To do so, it is important to have a plan in place and alternative power sources ready. Start by identifying the essential items in your home that rely on electricity and make arrangements for backup power if needed.

Make sure you have flashlights conveniently located throughout your home. If you have a generator, keep it outside and use a sturdy extension cord to directly connect your appliances. It’s important to always have a full gas tank in your vehicle in case you need to evacuate.

If it is safe, it is advisable to stay at home during a power outage. In such situations, it is important to consider the needs of your family and keep essential items within reach. Additionally, it is crucial to have a plan in place to ensure the safety of your food when the power goes out.

Always Keep a Ready Go-Bag

Wherever you are, it’s essential to have a go-bag prepared at home. This bag should be easily accessible so that you can grab it quickly in case of emergencies like a medical crisis or the need to evacuate due to a storm, fire, or any other disaster.

When preparing your survival bag, it is crucial to prioritize the inclusion of essential documents such as passports, security cards, birth certificates, and IDs. In the event of a worst-case scenario, such as a severe storm impacting local or state government infrastructure, these documents become indispensable.

Make sure to include the following essentials:

    • Non-perishable food
    • Water
    • Prescriptions
    • Over-the-counter medications
    • First-aid kit
    • Flashlights
    • Pet supplies
    • Emergency blankets
    • Extra cash
    • Phone charger and backup battery

Avoid Non-Essential Travel

It is advisable to refrain from unnecessary travel, particularly during the expected height of the storm.

If driving is necessary or if you feel unsafe during the rainfall, you can use the QuickMap app or visit QuickMap (ca.gov) for real-time updates on road conditions, closures, traffic, and more.

When encountering flood waters, it is crucial to avoid walking or driving through them. It is important to remember that even just six inches of water can be powerful enough to knock a person down, while one foot of flowing water has the potential to sweep away a car.

Prepare Your Emergency Contacts

Having a well-prepared list of emergency contacts is crucial. Make sure to save the contact information of your local emergency services, such as the police and fire departments. Additionally, consider including the contact details of close neighbors who can lend a hand or provide important information.

During a storm, it’s important to have the phone numbers of utility companies on hand so you can report any power outages. Make sure to share these numbers with your family members so everyone knows who to contact in case of an emergency. And remember, if you come across a life-threatening situation, don’t hesitate to call 911 right away.

Register for Emergency Alerts

Stay up to date with the latest information by signing up for free emergency alerts from your county or local officials. These alerts will provide you with important warnings about potential disasters, evacuation notices, and safety information. To register, simply visit CalAlerts.org and sign up for these valuable local emergency alerts.

Conclusion

Preparing for a storm can ensure the safety of your home and loved ones while minimizing potential damage. Even though the first significant storm has already hit the California coast, there is still time to prepare and arm yourself with helpful tips for preparedness and response.

When a storm arrives in your area, it’s important to prioritize your safety by staying at home. However, it’s also crucial to be prepared for a possible evacuation. Stay updated on local weather forecasts and storm predictions to stay informed. Make sure to regularly check the websites of state and local government or emergency management for reliable and timely information.

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