Central Valley

Officials brace for wind, rain, snow

Officials are gearing up for a hefty series of storms, the first of which is expected to roll in tonight.

While there is little chance of flooding in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, according to irrigation district spokeswomen, state and federal officials are concerned about Southern California and high elevation areas.

The fires burned away acres of vegetations that would normally help hold together soil saturated by heavy rain, so burned areas are flood and mudslide prone, said Frank McCarton, chief deputy director of the state Office of Emergency Services.

Mountain areas will be seeing heavy snow that will build because the storms are wet and cold, with wind up to 150 mph.

"It'll be blizzard-like conditions," McCarton said.

In the valley, folks have started piling sandbags in flood-prone areas, such as homes backed up against Dry Creek in Modesto's La Loma neighborhood.

City employees had filled 5,000 sandbags by noon today and expected to continue the effort the rest of the day and Friday, said Ron Shriver, Modesto's street supervisor.

If there is flooding, it is expected to be light and localized, according to Modesto and Turlock irrigation district spokeswomen. This week's storms follow a dry autumn and winter, so there is plenty of room in Don Pedro Dam to store the water that comes toward the valley out of the foothills.

Still, officials agree that heavy winds could interrupt power supplies, so people are advised to prepare for that.

The governor's office today issued the following recommendations:

Prepare or update your family emergency plans and make sure loved ones know the plan.

Identify a meeting place outside your neighborhood.

Make sure family members know where to go to re-unite if you're separated.

Make arrangements for your pets before the watch or warning.

Listen to the radio, watch television or monitor the Internet for the latest weather information and instructions from local officials.

Update emergency supply kits by including:

Drinking water

Food for your family

Battery-operated flashlights and radios

First aid kit and book

Warming clothing

Learn the difference between flash flood watches and flash flood warnings.

Teach your children to avoid creeks, canyons, drainage control channels and washes at all times.

Drive only when necessary.

Meet with your neighbors to discuss their plans and how you can help one another.

Contact county flood control personnel and other experts to learn what actions you can take, including sandbagging, to protect your property from small mudflows