As Hurricane Hilary threatens to bring life-threatening floods to California, the state is particularly focused on preparing residents in areas that typically receive the least rain — or that were most recently scorched by wildfires.
“We’re keeping a very close eye on our desert regions east of San Diego and Los Angeles,” said Brian Ferguson, the deputy director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He warned that “some parts of those areas may receive double their yearly amount of water in just a single day.”
While on the lookout for mudslides and debris flows, they’ll also focus closely on the “burn scars from fires that have happened in recent years,” Ferguson said.
Residents have been offered sandbags to fortify their property in counties across Southern California, where some of the natural buffers against flooding have been burned away.
Ferguson’s office has also focused especially on “vulnerable Californians: those in hospitals, nursing homes, homeless people or people who live outdoors, and what we can do to get people out of the storm’s path before it arrives,” he told CNN.
California has a staggering homelessness problem: More than 170,000 people are unhoused in the state.
Ferguson said the state will be aggressive in its public outreach efforts. California will use its expansive emergency warning systems — including notifications on phones in both English and Spanish — to help convince residents unfamiliar with hurricanes and tropical storms that they need to use caution.
Ferguson’s office, known as Cal OES, serves as a hub for the state’s myriad agencies during major emergencies. While California first responders and government officials are more accustomed to addressing unpredictable disasters — like wildfires and major earthquakes — they’ve emphasized the opportunity to actually prepare ahead of this hazard, given the ability to track hurricanes.