With Tropical Storm Kay on the way, here’s how to check your flood risk

As if a historic heat wave wasn’t enough to think about, Southern Californians now have flood warnings on their minds.

Tropical Storm Kay, a system along the northern coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, is expected to bring heavy rain, flash flooding, high winds and humid conditions through Saturday.

However, for most of Southern California, this storm will be a boon, not a curse, said Daniel Swain, a climatologist at UCLA’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability.

This will “reduce fire risk more than it will cause damage from other things like flooding, for the most part,” Swain said.

There are exceptions, he says. For example, eastern San Diego and Imperial counties – the southeastern deserts – have the potential for widespread and severe flash flooding. And gusty winds could complicate firefighting efforts, while particularly heavy downpours in a wildfire footprint could produce severe debris flows.

However, heavy rains will likely remain light in San Diego and Imperial counties, sparing recent burned areas farther north, Swain said. He added that the place most likely to benefit from the storm is the coastal plain, where the rain will “finally cool everyone”.

So should you be prepared for the authorities to declare a flood alert? In a word, yes. We may not experience it this weekend, but it doesn’t hurt to prepare for the future.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the state experiences many types of flooding, including alluvial fan, rivercoastal, glowand localized flooding, as well as debris flows and tsunamis.

As their name suggests, flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes within minutes and without visible signs of rain, according to LA County ready.

Be aware of flood risks wherever you live, but especially if your home is in a low-lying area, near water, or near a recently burned hillside, advises Ready LA County.

Check the flood risk in your area

Use a flood map to understand the risk of flooding in your community and if your home is in a flood zone.

A flood zone means that the area has the potential for flooding during heavy rains or a weather disaster.

Two government agencies — the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services — provide online information about flood risks and other hazards throughout California. All you have to do is enter your address into the search tool to see what issues your home is facing.

On the FEMA map, moderate to low risk flood zones are identified by the letters B, C, and X. In these zones, the risk of flooding is reduced but not eliminated. High-risk flood zones are identified by the letters A and V.

A community’s flood risk changes over time, so the National Food Insurance Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency working continuously with communities across the country to identify and map flood risks.

Prepare for floods

Preparing for a flood – or any type of emergency, for that matter – starts with making a plan with your immediate family and neighbors.

Part of this plan includes packing a go-bag which should contain important documents (in a Ziplock or other type of waterproof bag), medication, an extra set of glasses (or contacts), a pair comfortable shoes, a change of clothes, small bills (a number of $1 and $5 bills), phone charger, flashlight, water and non-perishable food.

If you have pets, pack food, treats, and an extra leash if you have one.

Keep the needs of each family member in mind when creating your go-bag.

Emily Montanez, associate director of the LA County Office of Emergency Management, said you should try to create a small community of close neighbors to check in with in the event of a disaster. Consider creating an emergency contact list on paper in case your phone stops working or the battery runs out and you can’t check contacts there, she said.

Track Emergency Orders

If an evacuation is ordered or advised in your community, evacuate immediately.

Montanez said when it comes to safety, listen to first responders.

“If someone gets a knock at their front door from a member of law enforcement or [from] the fire department, we definitely support the safest approach and evacuation of your home,” she said.

Stay informed of warnings and alerts by subscribing to your local mass emergency notification system.

Los Angeles County residents can register with Alert County LA, Warn LA and Nixle to receive SMS or email notifications. Keep up to date with the weather forecast by tuning into your local news station and checking the Los Angeles National Weather Service Office website.

If a flood warning or watch is issued for your community and you have some time before evacuating, move valuables (especially those sensitive to water, such as laptops, tablets and smart kitchen appliances) from lower to upper floors. You should also unplug all electrical appliances or turn off electrical circuits at the fuse box or circuit breaker panel.

If you have been evacuated, wait for the authorities to give the green light to return home.

About the Times Utility Journalism Team

This article comes from The Times Utility Journalism Team. Our mission is to be essential to the lives of Southern Californians by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions and helps with decision-making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles, including current Times subscribers and various communities whose needs have not been met by our coverage.

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