City to Install Flood Alarm System

Last December's deluge swept a car into Laguna Canyon creek. Photo by Mitch Ridder

The City Council approved the installation of a $38,000 flood warning system on Tuesday, eight months after a record-breaking rainstorm and deluged Laguna Canyon and flooded downtown shops, taking out houses and businesses and shattering feelings of security. The 100-year-storm caused an estimated $12 million in damages.

The system’s leading advocate was Frank Weirich, a hydroscience engineer and flood consultant to the city’s recently formed flood mitigation task force.  It includes a supervising system of gauges, cameras and monitors in the canyon that will link to existing Orange County Public Works’ rainfall data.  It will also connect to a reverse-911 system of automated telephone calls to residents warning of a potential danger, which was employed last Dec. 22 to tell them to avoid downtown hours after the early-morning downpour.

The flood warning recommendations will go into effect immediately at the one-time expense of $38,000, which includes a $15,000 consultant’s fee for designing, installing and supervising the system.  It also includes the purchase and installation of four remote cameras at $1,500 each, four real-time rain gauges at $1,500 each and four hillside soil saturation monitors at $1,600 each.

“Predicting the behavior of storms, particularly when they’re coming in off the ocean, is very hard,” said council member Verna Rollinger, council liaison to the city’s flood mitigation task force.  She said the system will provide better information to the public for early preparation.

The proposal directed city staff to work with property owners in clearing debris out of run-off channels in the canyon, which blocked rain flow and contributed to flood damage. At least 180 private and public properties citywide sustained damage from last December’s storm.

The flood mitigation task force is expected to bring further recommendations to the council in November, Rollinger said.

Last July, Rollinger brought three other task force flood control recommendations to the council that include connecting to the county’s automated warning system as well as enlarging the flood control conduit under Coast Highway and improving drainage along Laguna Canyon Road.


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