03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

California's Impending Mudslides: How To Stay Prepared

A powerful storm is poised to strike California on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing with it the risk of flash floods and mudslides in the areas affected by recent wildfires. The neighborhoods situated below The San Gabriel Mountains are particularly vulnerable after the Station Fire of August and September that destroyed than 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest. These include the cities of Glendale, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena and Tujunga.

U.S. Geological Survey reports indicate that basins carved into the foothills to trap debris may overflow and spill into neighborhoods if rain falls for 12 hours at a time when the basins are full. Rainfall amounts are forecast at 1 to 3 inches in the Los Angeles area, with 2 to 4 inches expected at higher elevations. Throw winds of more than 60 mph into the mix, however, along with barren hillsides that are already shedding sediment and rock, and you've got an unseasonably strong storm.

Northern and Central California will also weather the storm, with 2 to 6 inches of rain in most places. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains should be the hardest hit.

Free sandbags are available at Los Angeles County Fire Stations, which can be found on this interactive map created by the Los Angeles Times.

Tips for dealing with mudslides, from American Red Cross:

  • Stay alert and awake. Many debris-flow fatalities occur when people are sleeping. Be aware that intense, short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall and damp weather.
  • If you are in areas susceptible to mudslides and debris flows, consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Remember that driving during an intense storm can be hazardous. If you remain at home, move to a second story if possible.
  • Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and for a change from clear to muddy water.
  • Be especially alert when driving. Embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to mudslides. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flows.
  • Follow evacuation orders and other instructions from local authorities and use your best judgment about leaving mudslide-prone areas.
  • If escape is not possible, curl into a tight ball and protect your head. A tight ball will provide the best protection for your body.

You can also donate directly to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.