Photo via Edal Anton Lefterov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Edal Anton Lefterov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
City sanitation officials said Tuesday they are exploring the possibility of halting trash pick-ups during heavy or sudden El Nino-related storms to help keep catch basins clear of debris and other objects that could block rain from flowing into storm drains and cause flooding.

Sanitation officials are working with emergency preparation experts “to look for the first time at the potential of suspending trash service in certain areas of the city when we are anticipating there is a heavy downpour happening,” Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of the Bureau of Sanitation, told the City Council.

Hagekhalil said in past storms, mattresses, trash bins and other debris left on the street for pick-up have been carried away by rain and gotten in the way of catch basins, which could lead to flooding.

He also said all of the city’s catch basins have been cleaned in preparation for the storms.

Hagekhalil joined other top city officials Tuesday to give the council an update on El Nino preparations. A group of about 40 city officials also took part in a meeting in the mayor’s office to share strategies and challenges presented by this winter’s anticipated El Nino weather, which is forecasted to be particularly dramatic.

One of the challenges anticipated for a potential El Nino event is the availability of the city’s 311 information call center, which is only available 12 hours out of the day. Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion asking staff to report back on ways to extend the call center hours to 24 hours during an El Nino-related emergency.

Mark Wolf, executive officer for the Information Technology Agency, said during the meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti such an extension could be difficult. Spreading existing staffing over 24 hours could “degrade” the quality of the services, he said.

Staff from other city call centers, such as in the Bureau of Sanitation, that are already being extended may be needed to help with the calls, Wolf said.

Meanwhile, sand bags are available at nearly all city fire stations, though not all will have sand available to fill them, Emergency Management Department General Manager James Featherstone said.

Bureau of Street Services officials said their department has been providing as much sand as possible to the Los Angeles Fire Department to fill the sand bags.

Featherstone recommended the public to sign up with the city’s alert system, known as NotifyLA, which sends out information during emergencies via text messages, voice mail or email. Information about the alert system and ways to prepare and react to El Nino can be found at the website, here .

— City News Service 

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