by Burris DeBenning
While a strong, rainy cold front descended on Ventura, city staff provided updates at the Monday, January 8 City Council meeting on preparations underway for possible storm debris flows and the latest efforts with the Thomas Fire recovery. A very positive and articulate interim City Manager, Dan Paranick, conducted a presentation in conjunction with Public Works on Ventura’s preparations for this and future rain events and how the recovery process is on-track.
Mr. Paranick emphasized that city staff took this storm and future winter fronts very seriously by opening the city emergency operations center, coordinating with the Red Cross on an overnight evacuation center at Ventura College and notifying Westside, Downtown and Midtown residents of a voluntary evacuation that would be followed up by mandatory notices via VCAlert if necessary. Prescient news, especially since many people died in mudslides in Montecito.
“The watershed here is Priority 1A due to the potential rain impact,” said Mr. Paranick. The city has five key goals to meet this challenge: evacuation, response, emergency protective measures, long-term mitigation and protective measures “Sandbags ran out, so we made sure these were immediately replenished before the rain arrived later Monday evening,” he said. Residents in specific neighborhoods who may face debris flows because of the Thomas Fire were contacted by the city.
Clifford Tully, Public Works Director, presented a comprehensive storm mitigation plan along with engineering models that consider several scenarios, such as a 100-year or 10-year storm. Mr. Tully conveyed to several council members who asked about the areas of concern in the model, such as Ondulando and Clear Point storm drains, that the city and county are working together on preventative and recovery actions and even have storm patrols out at city hot spots to warn residents and officials about clogs and flooding.
Thomas Fire recovery has completed important milestones, according to Mr. Paranick, the highlight being President Trump’s declaration of the burn zones as a major disaster area, which opens the door to well-needed FEMA federal funding. The toxic substance removal phase is now 75% completed and the collection and dispensing of recyclable materials will begin on January 15.” We’ll also have town halls after the recycle assessment after the 18th of January,” said Mr. Paranick.
In addition, the City Attorney Greg Diaz reminded council that a curfew is still in effect in hillside burn areas until dangers have been removed by official personnel. For rain emergency issues, log onto www.vcemergency.com and for recovery information, the website is www.venturacountyrecovers.org.