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Goleta Gets Down to the Business of Preparing for Winter Rains

With flooding seemingly inevitable, there are things owners and managers can do to protect themselves.

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Goleta Valley floodplain. (City of Goleta map)

If the level of cooperation between public agencies is any indication of how serious this winter’s rains are going to affect the valley, then Goleta’s in for a doozy.

“This is the most cooperative I’ve seen the various layers of government working to address a single problem,” Goleta City Manager Dan Singer said last Thursday, during a joint forum held by the city, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, Santa Barbara County Flood Control and others. The meeting was held specifically to inform local businesses in the city’s floodplain of what they can do to protect themselves against floods expected to come with winter rains.

Because July’s Gap Fire burned so close to the Goleta Valley’s northern border, it is expected that erosion and debris during winter rains will fill and clog several of the creeks that flow down to the city, leading to flooding and mudflow. All seven of the Goleta Valley’s watersheds were burned by the fire.

Particularly affected will be several businesses in Goleta’s floodplain, including Path Point, Raytheon, Wilson Printing, Launchpoint Technologies, Willow Springs, Maravilla and others in Old Town Goleta. The Santa Barbara Airport is also in the floodplain and for weeks has been preparing for the winter storms. Even Goleta’s City Hall could be affected.

The hydromulching effort finished by the U.S. Forest Service and taken up by Santa Barbara County will help during light rains, said Jon Frye, from Santa Barbara County Flood Control, but by no means will it control all of the erosion and runoff in the case of downpours.

“In the extreme events, all bets are off,” he said.

The next best thing for properties most likely to be affected by winter flows?

“Now would be a great time to consider flood insurance for your properties,” Frye said. “Whether you’re in a special flood hazard area or not.” According to statistics, he said, there are more properties surrounding floodplains than there are properties in them.

The sooner flood insurance is purchased, the better, because such policies take 30 days to go into effect.

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County Flood Control crews have been working to clear vegetation and other debris that can clog creeks underneath bridges and in culverts. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)
According to Blair Stevens representing FEMA’s FloodSmart Team, flood insurance is not only available but encouraged.

“Commercial structures can be insured to a limit of $500,000 for the building and $500,000 for the contents,” he told Noozhawk. While the insurance covers floods and mudflows, defined as “a flooding condition where a river of liquid and flowing mud moves on the surface of normally dry land areas,” it will not cover mudslides, which “occur when a dry or wet mass of earth or rock moves downhill.”

To find out how to get flood insurance, call Jana Critchfield at FEMA at 510.627.7266. To find out if your property is inside or outside the floodplain, call Santa Barbara County Flood Control at 805.568.3440. Have your parcel number (APN) handy.

Meanwhile, the city of Goleta is in the process of reconstructing bridges and culverts to be able to accept bigger flows.

“We’re also making modifications so that if they were to plug, making sure that water could continue to flow and not back up,” said Steve Wagner, director of the city’s community services department. To help protect businesses and homes, sand bags are available at Fires Station 14, at 320 N. Los Carneros Road.

Should a flood wash through a business, what should owners and management do? That was the topic Kathryn McKee, president of Human Resources Consortia, addressed in her talk. She is the author of a book on the topic.

According to McKee, the five critical steps owners and managers should take to prepare for and endure a disaster include:

» Making the case to plan.
» Forming a planning team.
» Identifying critical business processes that you need to keep going.
» Planning for and with employees.
» Looking at the kind of supplies needed to keep the business going.

According to the city of Goleta and Santa Barbara County, the real work is yet to be done. Between winter storms, County Flood Control and Goleta’s Community Services Department will stand ready to continue clearing clogged waterways in an effort to keep floods from happening. The best thing to do, they told the audience, is to be prepared.

To learn more about disaster preparedness, visit the local Red Cross Web site.

Click here to register with Goleta’s City Alert.

To monitor weather conditions in or near, visit the National Weather Service Web site. The agency has put out more monitors in the burn areas to assess weather conditions in the affected area.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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