I recently attended a disaster preparedness meeting for canyon residents. We were showered with hand-outs from well-meaning city staff that were mainly concerned with common sense preparations such as having a first aid kit, flashlight, bottled water etc.
We learned that computer models from the National Weather Service are predicting an El Niño of catastrophic proportion.
We discussed the Laguna Creek flood channel and its ability to contain and empty the volume of water predicted by the NWS. Canyon residents remember past El Ninos where the water in the flood channel came within inches of overflowing.
I asked staff what preparations they were making to allow the channel to accommodate increased volume. They said they will monitor the volume and when it gets too high they would order a mandatory evacuation.
I pointed out this is a reactive measure rather than a proactive one.
If the canyon floods it will be for one reason and one reason only – the flood channel failed. Simply stated, it will not effectively drain the predicted amount of runoff. The overflow will spill into the neighborhoods and businesses many of which sit below the top of the channel. All of this water will eventually flow into the village that we know from recent experience has inadequate drainage.
I propose that the city increase the channel’s ability to carry water by sandbagging the sides where necessary. This is a proven method to help contain floodwaters. It is a low tech, non-invasive and relatively inexpensive common sense solution.
I don’t know if the city has a legal obligation to implement precautionary measures, but given the dire prediction from the NWS, I think it has a moral obligation to take the necessary steps to protect its citizens and to have sandbags in place before the first storms arrive.
Michael Hallinan, Laguna Beach
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