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Valley gears up for flash flooding ahead of ‘atmospheric river’ storm

Coachella Valley emergency crews are gearing up, cities have staff on standby for road closures, and residents are preparing for potential flash flooding ahead of the third winter storm of the week, expected to bring impressive rainfall totals to the desert.

Anxieties are running high in flood-prone zones of the valley as an "atmospheric river" barrels toward Southern California.

"I'm a little nervous about it," said Ronda Rector. "The other night when it was raining, I couldn't sleep because I was thinking we'd wake up in a lake."

"Just keeping my raincoat on," said Renee Wood. She and Rector are both residents of Horizon Mobile Village & RV Park, which is adjacent to the Pam Canyon wash off Highway 111.

Wood said she is getting ready for heavy rain. "Making sure that my roof is right and I've already taken precautions and took my umbrellas down," she said.

In the record-shattering 2019 Valentine's Day storm, News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia was at Horizon as emergency crews issued voluntary evacuation orders to residents of the mobile home park as the rushing wash threatened to overflow and flood homes.

"They all had to evacuate and they stayed in the Vons parking lot," Rector said.

Katie Evans, a spokeswoman for the Coachella Valley Water District, hopes to remind residents to be mindful of flash flooding. The agency is responsible for regional flood control across 590 miles of the Coachella Valley.

Evans said most important is to comply with road closures and directions from emergency personnel.

"Desert storms can really trick you," she said. "You may think that there's not a lot of water flowing in an area and be wrong. Flows can be strong enough to cause a car or truck to float away in what appears to be a small amount of water."

Palm Springs Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller said he has between a dozen to 15 city staff members standing by ready to be deployed in case road conditions deteriorate.

"The roads that cross the wash are just a mess: Indian, Gene Autry, Vista Chino," Fuller said.

And as residents prepare, they're holding out hope for the best. "I'm just hoping it doesn't happen this time," Rector said.

CALFIRE said sandbags are available in limited numbers at all local fire stations. Check with your city for locations to pick up free sand as well.

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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