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City crews clean storm drains and hand out sandbags to residents before storm

A First Alert Weather Alert will be in place for Thursday and Friday as an atmospheric river approaches California, and crews around the Coachella Valley are making their final efforts to prevent major flooding during Thursday's storm. Moderate to heavy rain is possible during this time with concerns of street and wash flooding. Rain is likely to arrive by midday Thursday, and could be heavy at times as the front moves through the region.

Workers with the Cathedral City Public works department got an early start to their day. Most of them have been out since 6:00 a.m. cleaning storm drains and clearing alleyways of trash and debris. Its a job the city sees as essential to prevent local roads and neighborhoods from experiencing major flooding.

By 11:00 a.m., John Corella, Director of Public Works with Cathedral City, says those crews had already cleared more than three dozen drains around the city.

"After every storm, there is debris left in storm drains from the last storm," Corella said. "And we go out there and check to make sure it's clear and free of most common items are leaves dried leaves that have fallen off trees, other debris, and also the plastic bags you see in the grocery store. Those are big culprits in clogging up storm drains.”

Corella also says it would be helpful if residents could clean debris, leaves and trash from their front curbs and gutters, so that it doesn't end up clogging the drains during the storm.

There is more you can do to protect your homes and businesses. The City of Indio handed out empty sand bags for residents Wednesday afternoon. In a statement, the city said:

"As part of our ongoing commitment to community safety and preparedness, the City of Indio is taking proactive measures in anticipation of the upcoming rainstorms. We understand the importance of being prepared for adverse weather conditions, and we want to ensure that our residents and businesses have the resources they need to safeguard their properties."

City of Indio

Sandbag pick up was held 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 45250 Smurr Street. Each household was eligible to receive up to 10 empty sandbags. Sandbags were available on a first come, first served basis. 

Other local Cal Fire Stations and city Fire Departments are also handing out sandbags to residents interested in picking them up. Sand bags can be stacked up and used to deter water from coming into a garage, entryway, or residence. Anyone living in a flood-prone area or in a residence that sits lower than the ground around it is especially encouraged to pick up sandbags. Residents are also limited to ten bags each.

John Clinging Smith, the Public Information Officer with CalFire Riverside County Fire Department, says his team is prepared for any situation.

"All of our county fire stations are prepared for the incoming storm," said Smith. "We are a year round all-risk Fire Department. So we train for these types of scenarios year round. We do have our eight truck companies spread throughout the county that are ready for swiftwater activations if the need arises.”

The county is also continuing to keep track of the storm. Shane Reichardt, with the County of Riverside Emergency Management Department, says several emergency alerts will be sent out today to residents living in areas that will be hardest hit. Alerts are expected to be sent to the Santa Ana and San Jacinto riverbottom areas. People living along the 32000 block of Via Eduardo in Thousand Palms can expect to receive one of those alerts as well. That saw significant mud and flooding following Tropical Storm Hilary last August.

Reichardt also says emergency alerts will be sent to areas where unhoused folks may be living in waterways and washes. Homeless Outreach Teams with the county will be visiting those places to warn people about the possible dangers during the storms and encouraging them to evacuate and move to a safer location. Reichardt says the mission of those emergency alerts and Homeless Outreach Teams is to save lives and prevent future water rescues or deaths during flooding.

According to Reichardt, the county been conducting meetings with the National Weather Service and all county departments to ensure their team is ready for any possible issues with the storms. In a statment, he says:

"From our National Weather Service update it appears that this first wave, those significant, will not be as serious as first predicted. That said, the second wave may have additional concerns as the ground will already be saturated, and the rainfall is forecast to be significant. As that date approaches, the forecast is likely to change, but we are ramping up for that storm."

Shane Reichardt, PIO, County of Riverside Emergency Management Department

If you are interested in receiving emergency alerts from the county, head to and sign up for alerts on your phone.

Make sure to stay with News Channel Three for breaking news and weather alerts throughout the week.

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Tori King


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