SoCal storms: 5 things you need to know to protect your home from floods, mudslides

Water and mud cover Pacific Coast Highway north of Deer Creek Road after Sunday's rains forced its closure.
Water and mud cover Pacific Coast Highway north of Deer Creek Road after Sunday's rains forced its closure.

A second, more powerful storm is headed for Southern California, and it's expected to deliver heavy rainfall and snow to some areas.

For some, that means the potential for flooding or mudslides, particularly for those living near recent wildfire burn areas, such as the one left earlier this year by the Colby Fire. An earlier storm Sunday already led to the closure of a section of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Forecasters say the storm coming Tuesday will be more widespread and bring even more rain.

1. How to prepare your house for a flood

The National Flood Insurance Program offers the following tips:

  • Make sure your sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home's projected flood elevation.
  • Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.

The L.A. County Department of Public Works also has a fairly extensive homeowner's guide to flood and debris control.

2. Where to get sandbags

You don't necessarily have to go it alone or foot the entire bill to protect your home. The City of Los Angeles has provided a list of fire stations where residents can pick up free sandbags and sand.

Residents of unincorporated L.A. County communities can get sandbags from county fire stations.

Others should check with their local city fire or public works departments.

The L.A. County Department of Public Works offers step-by-step instructions on filling and using the sandbags to protect property.

3. Do I need flood insurance?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends talking directly to an insurance broker if you're concerned about the risk of damage to your home from floods or mudslides. If you do purchase insurance, there's normally a 30-day waiting period before it goes into effect, but it can be waived for some residents living near recent burn areas.

You can get more information at floodsmart.gov.

4. Where's the Colby burn area?

Local officials are warning residents living in communities near areas burned in recent wildfires to prepare for the possibility of damaging debris flows.

The Colby Fire earlier this year created one such burn area. The map below shows the areas that could be impacted.


Residents of Glendora living near the Colby burn area can sign up for debris flow alerts.

5. How to stay safe during the flood

From the National Flood Insurance Program:

  • If flooding occurs, go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding.
  • Do not attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
  • If water rises in your home before you evacuate, go to the top floor, attic, or roof.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
  • If you've come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.

This story has been updated.