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El Niño is coming, are you ready?

Elder Creek at BaselineThe San Bernardino County Fire Department Office of Emergency Services will host a series of public awareness meetings beginning tonight regarding this winter’s expected El Niño storm system.

The first meeting will be held Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at  Victorville City Hall, 14343 Civic Drive.

Meetings will also be held on:

– Monday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 Twentynine Palms Highway in Yucca Valley
– Thursday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive in Rancho Cucamonga

The public is strongly encouraged to attend. The best way to get prepared is to get informed. The first 50 attendees will receive a personal disaster preparedness kit from California Volunteers.

In its most recent El Niño Diagnostic Discussion, the National Weather Service along with the federal Climate
Prediction Center stated “there is an approximately 95 percent chance” that El Niño will continue through the winter
and begin to weaken in the spring.

After four years of drought, our ground is so dry and hard that it cannot absorb enough water when we do get
rain, which leads to dangerous flooding situations. Risks are higher for areas that have experienced wildfires
recently, specifically the risk of mudslides. According to the US Geological Survey, “post-fire landslide hazards
include fast-moving, highly destructive debris flows that can occur in the years immediately after wildfires in
response to high intensity rainfall events.”

Already this year we have seen multiple major flooding and mudslide events. In mid-October, flooding and mud
flows trapped hundreds of motorists in adjacent counties and forced the temporary closure of Interstate 5
through the Tehachapi Mountains. In early September, a couple on a first date got caught in a flash flood at Mill
Creek crossing in Forest Falls. While she was able to make it to shore, he did not make it out of the water alive.
In August, flash flooding in Riverside County washed out a bridge on Interstate 10.

San Bernardino County Fire Office of Emergency Services, the National Weather Service, San Bernardino County Public Works, and the state Department of Water Resources will update you on the latest El Niño forecast and how local
government is preparing. They will also provide flood preparation materials for residents.

For additional information, please contact the Office of Emergency Services at (909) 356-3998. To learn more
about flood preparation, visit www.sbcfire.org or visit the County’s El Niño page.

8 Responses to El Niño is coming, are you ready?

  • Frankly, I am not at all confident that the county and it’s various agencies are in any way prepared for the coming storms. A few examples: debris and mud flows from this spring’s Lake Fire and the preceding Sawtooth Complex fires have predictably clogged canyon runoff and created new flood zones in residential areas; legal and illegal grading projects have loosened upstream and uphill soils – Land Use Services has a 6 month backlog of code violations that remain unresolved; county agencies, state and federal agencies don’t talk to each other – cross-agency permits are a rarity – their glitzy websites look good but serve no real purpose.
    The examples herein are just the tip of the iceberg and are well-known to those of us who live in exurban and rural areas. The county especially remains stuck in ‘business as usual’ mode while my neighbors and I are out there every day with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows trying to protect our properties from a predictable and preventable disaster.

    • This year, the County has worked effectively with state and federal agencies to secure the permits needed to clear out channels and basins to make room for mud and debris flows. County crews are hard at work right now clearing those channels and basins.

      • My statement of 11/7, and supporting evidence stands! There have been absolutely no SBC flood/mud control efforts applied to SBC roads and SBCFCD properties contiguous to the four major canyons affected by the Sawtooth Complex and Lake Fires: Big Morongo Cyn, Little Morongo Cyn, Burns Cyn and Pipes Cyn.
        As a result, residential properties, businesses and major roads servicing the Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Base have been placed at great risk!

        • The County and Flood Control District can only perform work where there are County-maintained roads or land or facilities owned by the Flood Control District. The County participated in the U.S. Forest Services’ Safety Assessment Team following the Lake Fire and has cleaned and prepped all culvert crossings on County maintained roads. It’s important to note that the County has no ownership, County roads, or jurisdiction in Big Morongo Canyon. The Flood Control ownership along portions of Little Morongo Canyon has been inspected with no specific prep work deemed necessary. The County also has no maintained roads in the area of Little Morongo Canyon. The County has also inspected and cleaned (where necessary) culverts on Pipes Canyon Road and Rimrock Road in the Pioneer Town area, but again, the County has no facilities, ownership or jurisdiction in either Burns or Pipes Canyons. The County Department of Public Works is making a concerted effort to prepare its facilities for the coming storm season and will continue with those efforts throughout the winter and spring.

  • Will there be any meeting in 29 palms ??

  • My El Nino nightmare is the Mojave River – specifically, the area south of the new “Rock Springs Road Dam”. Now, I know that isn’t the designation of the structure, but it is the effect of it. The sand on the south side of the structure is now HIGHER!!! than on the north side. The structure has done what nature couldn’t – it raised the level of the river bed. The practical effect of this structure will be (when it rains) to create a dam that the water needs to rise above in order to continue north. This means that the river bed at that point will be effectively 3 or so feet HIGHER that it was!!!! If we have a repeat of the rains that we had in the late 90s then the Mojave River will overtop the existing banks and flood all the homes west of Deep Creek, continue north on Deep Creed, under the RR bridge and flood the homes in that area, also. The idea for a road that doesn’t wash out was well-intentioned, but I am afraid will have some disastrous effects. The little culverts under Rock Springs road CANNOT handle the water and will certainly plug up with debris, anyway. I hope you have set aside a lot of money to reimburse people for their losses from the upcoming flood. Thanks.

    • Previously the crossing at Mojave River at Rock Springs Road was a low flow crossing with a series of small pipes that was subject to frequent overtopping and damage during storms. During the storms of January 2005 the crossing was severely damaged and an interim crossing using larger boxes was added. The boxes pass a lot more storm flow than the previous crossing, but it is still designed to overtop during larger flows. The construction work was funded by Emergency Relief Program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The crossing has overtopped a few times since the new boxes were installed and has held up. Each time the crossing overtops, Public Works evaluates the conditions of the river and performs maintenance cleaning to remove excess sediment to restore the box capacity. Ultimately the County has plans for a bridge at this location and the bridge project is currently in design and environmental approval stage.

      While we understand your concern for the upcoming El Nino storms, DPW is going to closely monitor the crossing and will close it if/when it overtops. We have evaluated the current conditions and at this point we do not see a need for any additional sediment removal.

      If you have any questions on the maintenance you may contact our regional superintendent, Bob Evans at 760-949-0478 and for the bridge project please contact Chris Nguyen at 909-387-7948.

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