Los Angeles County leaders are urging local residents to prepare for emergency conditions with the approach of Hurricane Hilary, calling on them to establish evacuation plans and assemble emergency supply kits in the event of drastic storm conditions.
County officials also said they are making efforts to clear homeless people out of riverbeds or flood control channels that could be inundated during the anticipated heavy rains from the storm, which is expected to start dropping rain on the area as early as Saturday and continuing through Monday. Hilary is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reaches Southern California, but it is still expected to bring heavy rain and high winds.
“I don’t want people to panic … but we need to be prepared,” Sheriff Robert Luna said during an afternoon news conference.
Luna said his department will have personnel ready to deploy quickly to emergency situations, particularly search-and-rescue personnel and aircraft. The county’s Emergency Operations Center will be activated at 6 a.m. Sunday and continuing through at least Wednesday afternoon, he said. Ahead of the storm, however, Luna said sheriff’s personnel have been working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and other assistance agencies to contact the homeless who may be camping in treacherous areas such as riverbeds.
“Those efforts began this morning and will continue through Sunday morning,” Luna said.
Luna said patrol units are driving along roadways at the top of riverbeds making amplified announcements to warn people about the impending storm. Sheriff’s aircraft have also been flown over potentially dangerous areas making announcements and helping to spot people potentially in harm’s way. County Supervisor Janice Hahn echoed Luna’s concern for the homeless, and said efforts are being made to move the homeless into temporary housing. Hahn also warned that county parks could be closed over the weekend if they are deemed to be unsafe due to rain and wind. She also said extra personnel are being dispatched to Catalina Island, which could be particularly vulnerable to the storm. She urged people to reconsider any plans to travel to the island this weekend, or at least to be sure to return to the mainland by Saturday.
“It’s been 84 years since (a tropical storm) came ashore, so it’s a once in a lifetime event that we’re going to be experiencing,” Hahn said. “This really is an all-hands-on-deck effort.”
County officials are urging residents to sign up for emergency alert notifications by visiting alert.lacounty.gov. Kevin McGowan, director of county emergency management, urged residents to plan ahead for the storm by preparing emergency kits, establishing evacuation plans and sign up for emergency alerts. McGowan said a list of emergency preparedness tips is available at ready.lacounty.gov. He also said residents can get “real-time emergency updates” at lacounty.gov/emergency.
County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone offered a series of tips in addition to signing up for alerts, including urging residents to arrange for emergency battery backup for any essential medical equipment. He called on residents to stay out of the ocean and flood water and avoid approaching any downed trees or power lines. The county is providing sandbags to residents at all fire stations.