The American Red Cross is on the scene as Mother Nature unleashes her fury on the West Coast, pounding Southern California with heavy rains and dropping as much as six feet of snow in the north.
More than a foot of rain could fall in southern California over the next two days in areas which have seen an extensive amount of rainfall already. There are also predictions of up to six feet of snow in northern California, where some areas have already seen eight feet of snow. Flooding and mudslides are possible as the ground becomes saturated.
Some counties have declared emergencies and opened evacuation centers. Los Angeles County is working with the California Army National Guard to use armories as shelters. The Red Cross is coordinating response efforts with government and community partners and has additional workers on stand-by to help if needed.
The Red Cross is operating shelters in the area and is prepared to open more if necessary. The Red Cross is also providing meals, distributing personal toiletries and clean-up items to those whose homes have been affected and offering comfort to anyone who needs it.
"We are going to be working on meeting the needs of the people, receiving them in and if there's a need for shelters, we'll provide that," said Red Cross volunteer Diana Rafferty.
The Red Cross is urging residents to be ready with their own emergency items. "Everybody should have an emergency kit and a plan," said Lynda Maguet, Monterey County Red Cross emergency services manager. "We're preparing and working with the office of emergency services, keeping on top of things so the community can be safe," said Maguet.
If you need to find a Red Cross shelter, either call your local chapter, or visit www.redcross.org. The Red Cross has steps you should follow if your neighborhood is threatened by the flooding and mudslides. If flooding is a danger:
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
- When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
If mudslides threaten your neighborhood:
- If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire or police department.
- Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.
- If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. Such changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly.
- Be especially alert when driving— watch for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flow.
- If you are ordered or decide to evacuate, take your animals with you.
If heavy snow is predicted for your neighborhood, there are also steps you can take to remain safe and warm:
- Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat (preferably one that covers your ears).
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
- Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
- Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with nonfrozen drinking water.
- Run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
For more information on how to stay safe during threatening weather, visit www.redcross.org