el nino 1Los Angeles County officials are ramping up preparations for a winter of what forecasters warn could be heavy, El Niño-driven storms.

In a written report, county officials said that emergency response workers from various county agencies are working to coordinate their responses and that the county’s flood control system is “well positioned to capture storm water for the purpose of replenishing local water supplies.”

Officials from the emergency management department, as well as the Sheriff’s Department and fire and public works agencies, told the elected county supervisors Tuesday that they have been clearing flood control catch basins, stocking up on sandbags at fire and sheriff’s stations, and will be mapping homeless encampments in riverbeds and other areas in danger of flooding.

During downpours last month, county rescuers had to pull a number of people from storm drain channels.

Sheriff’s officials said teams will be walking river beds to find homeless encampments in hopes of persuading them to leave before major storms.

The supervisors last month agreed to set aside about $900,000 to extend the hours and operating period for winter shelters. They are expected to vote next week to set aside money to add 261 emergency winter beds to the 600 currently available across the county.
The money comes from a $100-million allocation the board approved this year to address homelessness.

The supervisors on Tuesday earmarked $15 million of that money for programs not directly related to winter storms, consisting of $13 million for so-called “rapid rehousing” programs — temporary rental subsidies along with services — for single adults and families and $2 million to give assistance to families on the brink of homelessness.

The money was supposed to be divvied up between programs after a series of public meetings and an in-depth report due out in February. But supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich, who proposed allocating the $15 million, said it was important to act on some initiatives more quickly.
“With the harsh winter months approaching, and predictions of a severe El Niño season, there is a sense of urgency and a moral imperative to act now,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The county launched a new website Tuesday that will give updates on El Niño preparations and responses from various county agencies.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.
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