Last week, a major storm system dumped buckets of water
on parched Los Angeles, Kern, and Santa Barbara counties: 1.81 inches in half an hour in one area; 1.18 inches in another.
About 300,000 cubic yards of mud and debris poured off hillsides
, inundating roads, and slamming into homes. A mudslide up to five feet deep
closed 45 miles of Interstate 5. Another shut down State Highway 58 in Kern County, trapping 200-plus vehicles in mud six feet deep.
The storm also damaged at least a dozen homes. One person is dead, another missing.
Although meteorologists say this storm was not related
to El Nino’s warmer-than-normal water in the western Pacific, they expect El Nino will bring heavy rain to the southern and western United States later in the year. That could bring more flooding and landslides.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey
, landslides can occur in every state. Their causes include earthquakes, storms, volcanoes, fire and human mismanagement.
Parts of California are preparing for El Nino-caused flooding and landslides
by clearing debris from basins and sewers to improve flood control measures.
Here are steps everyone can take to prepare, according to ready.gov.
First, Replace out if you’re vulnerable. The USGS has a U.S. map with areas susceptible to landslides
. The best source for smaller, local landslide information is state geologic offices, according to the USGS.
If you are vulnerable, protect your property by planting ground cover plants, taking care where you build, looking into flexible pipe fittings that bend in outside pressure, and buying flood insurance.
Many of the people caught in the California mudslides were just driving through. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency kit for the car as well as the home.
If you want to make your own, use this list
- Car maintenance supplies: basic tools, jumper cables and flares or a reflective triangle.
- Winter equipment: cat litter or sand for traction, a shovel and an ice scraper.
- Food: canned goods – don’t forget a can opener – and protein-rich food like nuts. Also remember baby formula and pet food, if applicable.
- Water: one gallon per person per day.
- Powered devices: flashlight with extra batteries, radio and cell phone car charger.
- Warm clothes and blankets or sleeping bags.
Definitely add a tarp or blanket to the car emergency kit. After the California mudslides, rescuers laid tarps on top of the mud for stranded motorists to crawl to safety.
Also, make a family communication plan. A communication plan includes information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. Ready.gov
and the American Red Cross
have cards with blanks for contact information. Every family member should be able to access an out-of-town emergency contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to ready.gov.
Watch for landslide warning signs. During a heavy storm, for example, look for widening cracks around the home. Also watch for changes to the landscape: bulging ground at the base of a slope, tilting landmarks like fences and trees and water breaking through the ground. Listen for a rumbling sound or strange noises like debris banging together and feel if the ground starts to slope and shift. If you’re near a stream or water channel, be prepared to dash to higher ground if the water flow suddenly changes speed or color.
The USGS estimates
that U.S. landslides cause more than $1 billion in damage and between 25 and 50 deaths every year. As the California mudslides showed, you don’t have to live in a landslide-prone area to be vulnerable to a landslide. So maybe toss an extra blanket in your car emergency kit.