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Preventing Damage From Mud Slides

January 21, 1988

During the winter rainy season, the Los Angeles Basin is periodically subject to floods causing substantial property damage. Such damage is intensified by debris flows in foothill areas where vegetation has been destroyed by major brush fires. In such cases, storm water comes down off the hills carrying soil, rocks, trees or brush. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works offers these tips for homeowners:

Never underrate the power of debris flows.

Try to direct debris flows away from improvements using material such as sandbags, sand or lumber.

Avoid trying to confine the flow more than is absolutely required. Always use protection to deflect debris, not to dam or stop it. Make sure to clear a path for the debris.

Use your house or building as a deflector if necessary.

Debris will often enter a building through windows. Board them up during a flow.

Protect your most valuable property first--your home. Then consider what time and money are available to protect other less valuable objects, such as swimming pools or plantings. Be prepared to sacrifice the use of portions of your property to achieve good protection.

Be prepared to personally observe and maintain your installations during storm periods because in many cases a minor correction will prevent major failure. But do not take unnecessary risks.

For long-term protection, try to install more permanent measures to protect your home. In general, the problem of debris flows will exist for several years after a burn. Sandbags usually last for only a year.

Try to work with adjacent property owners.

Should debris control problems appear to warrant facilities in excess of what you can accomplish on your own, consult an expert such as a civil engineer or geologist for additional advice.

For information on protecting your home from flood damage you can contact the Environmental Management Agency's Flood Program Division at (714) 834-5097 or the Agency's Public Works office at (714) 834-3820.

Source: Environmental Management Agency Public Works Office, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

Compiled by researchers Tracy Thomas and Henry Rivero

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