SYLMAR (CBSLA) — As residents two counties away in Montecito heeded mandatory evacuation orders Thursday, people living in a Los Angeles neighborhood ravaged by fire months ago were ready for information on how to protect themselves and their homes as a massive storm approached.
Residents of Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley gathered at a town hall meeting ahead of the projected downpour expected to hit the West Coast late in the evening.
“You drive La Tuna Canyon, it looks like a war zone,” homeowner Roger Swart told CBS2 News. His Sunland-Tujunga neighborhood was one of the areas affected by last year’s Creek Fire, which burned over 15,000 acres.
“Where’s that water and mud gonna go?” asked Swart.
His concern was more than valid: mudslides that killed 21 people in the Santa Barbara County neighborhood of Montecito in January were blamed, in part, to the fire-scorched earth’s failure to absorb torrential rains and becoming devastating debris flows.
“It’s just a reality of where we live,” said one Sylmar resident. “We know we live in a fire danger. We know we live in a, you know, high flash flood area.”
Thursday’s storm is expected to drop from a third to half an inch of water per hour, Los Angeles Fire Deputy Chief Trevor Richmond told CBS2.
“Anything beyond a half an inch of rain per hour, we start to get worried,” said Richmond.
Homeowners are encouraged to have a “go-bag” with important documents and medications in case a mandatory evacuation order is issued. Gutters and drains should be cleared, and people should practice driving through an emergency escape route.
Mr. Swart told CBS2 he is prepared for the worst-case scenario but said he is praying for “a little help from the man upstairs and good people.” “I think we’ll make it,” the U.S. Army vet added.
Authorities encouraged residents to get to know their neighborhood and neighbors in case they need to ask for assistance.