El Nino Preparedness for Playa Vista Residents

Notes from the Westchester El Nino Preparedness Town Hall — “This weather phenomenon will run the gamut from inconvenient to crisis.”


Attended by  20+ city department reps, Mike Bonin, Mayor Eric Garcetti. This was a city-wide and Westside focused collection of info on how city services are preparing for the predicted very stormy winter. Given the volume of info, much of which is on www.lacounty.gov/elnino, the following distills what I feel is salient to Playa Vista residents (plus some of my editorial).

First and foremost: just because we reside in Playa Vista does NOT mean that much doesn’t apply. We leave our cocoon many times weekly, so what may not apply to your household structure, still applies to you as a resident of Los Angeles. Here are action items:

  1. PREPAREDNESS starts with residents, as in YOU. Stock up NOW, not when the storms hit.
  2. WARNINGS — Go to ElNinoLA.org and sign up for “notify LA alerts” to your cell phone. Flash floods aren’t just a hillside issue, as the LAFD chief put it: they can happen A N Y W H E R E. Just one clogged storm drain (i.e. a traveling trash barrel) miles from here and YOUR access to getting somewhere is severely affected and dangerous.
  3. PLAN YOUR DAYS — Become a WEATHER NERD. Check weather reports throughout the day to be wiser about moving around the city. We may scoff at “storm watch” TV coverage, but the dangers are very real. Best resource is the National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/
  4. COMMUNICATION – text, don’t call, to communicate with family and friends. Texting will be more reliable in an emergency, as it takes less bandwidth.
  5. ELECTRICITY — The power will go out. Obviously no lights, fridge or WiFi. Elevators won’t work. Yummy will be closed. Visualize Playa Vista in darkness – test flashlights today, buy more batteries, get a battery operated radio, and obviously food.
  6. DRAINS – remove outdoor rugs off the patio drains for the winter.
  7. SANDBAGS — Storms are predicted to arrive like an escalator – one after another after another. In Playa Vista, our bazillion patio and walkway drains, downspout gutters and storm drains in the curbs ALL compete for the same underground route to the Ballona Creek — they may very likely back up – as in, standing and rising water. THIS IS WHERE SAND BAGS COME IN. If your home has an exterior door(s) on a patio or walkway, if you had six inches or more of water on that patio – does the water have an escape route besides the drain??  If not, it’s a good idea to sandbag that door or you may experience water coming in. (PS – rain very often flies sideways in bad storms, even if your patio is covered, just plan for it.)
  8. STAY AWAY from the Ballona Creek, including the bike path. The vast majority of deaths in big storms are due to drowning.
  9. STAY AWAY from hillsides, such as the LMU and Ballona Creek hiking trails. No telling how well the homes and campus above have prepared to mitigate slides.
  10. RESCUE NO NO– do not attempt to rescue anyone or any animal from the Ballona Creek, storm channels, etc. Call 911.
  11. DRIVING – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Don’t let other drivers bully you into making dumb driving choices. Don’t drive thru floods, no matter if that giant SUV in front of you made it. Yours may be the car that stalls out. It only takes 1.5 to 2 feet of moving water to sweep a car. Postpone errands, cancel that doctor’s appointment, stay home. If you are stuck in your car, stay in your car.
  12. KEEP YOUR GAS TANK AS FULL AS POSSIBLE – get out of the habit of only filling up when you are below a quarter full. If you’re down even a few gallons and a gas station is convenient, fill up again.
  13. WALKING – do not walk through moving water. NOOOO. 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet.
  14. SHELTER IN PLACE – plan to stay home a LOT. Don’t drive during or following a downpour. Everything will be a mess, it isn’t worth it. Trees down, traffic lights out, cars crashed. Negotiate with your employer soon to work from home. Just as importantly, if you cannot get home from your workplace, can you stay there overnight? Stock your desk – change of clothing, toothbrush, medications, flashlight.
  15. MAKE FRIENDS WITH NEIGHBORS – that goes without saying, right? But how many neighbors do you really know? We may need each other a whole lot more before next summer. Someone may have a tool you need. Or the muscle to help move something heavy.