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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Malibu Officials Prepare for Carmageddon Weekend

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The pundits have been prophesying that the closure of the 405 Freeway for construction in the Sepulveda Pass this weekend—dubbed “Carmageddon”—will generate a scenario straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie, and L.A.’s emergency services and law enforcement agencies are taking the challenge seriously.
Sergeant Eric Fox of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Emergency Operations Bureau spoke to the City of Malibu’s Public Safety Commission last week, outlining the potential for local impact and detailing the LASD’s response plan.
“We’re taking [it] serious as a department,” Fox said. “The emphasis for LASD is in the Lost Hills area. Caltrans’ best case scenario is a 16 mile back-up in each direction from Sepulveda,” Fox said, explaining that on the 101, the traffic jam is anticipated to reach to Las Virgenes Canyon.
“Our biggest issue is folks coming down the 101, attempting to jump down a canyon road. Emergency operations reached out to Lost Hills. [We’re] planning to man all of the major intersections on PCH.”
Fox said one of his department’s main goals will be ensuring that emergency vehicles can get through. “Folks cut intersections, block intersections. We are going to keep intersections clear,” he explained, adding that air support will be staged at Burbank, to allow “easy access to the ocean and back up to the mountains,” and that extra helicopters would be deployed beginning Friday.
Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Malibu Liaison Jim Royal told the commission that Lost Hills will be deploying search and rescue teams in the area. Commuters will be “unfamiliar with the canyons and how to drive them,” he said. “We will deploy motor officers in large numbers. [There will be a] large amount of deputy presence on PCH. In the unlikely chance of wildfire, we will have presence on the ground. The whole department is on tactical alert.”
Royal added that the Malibu Mountain Rescue Team, Arson Watch, and the beach team will all be available for search and rescue if needed. “I think we are good, but we will have people in reserve,” he said. “The estimates are anywhere from Y2K to worst-case scenario.”
“We’re hoping people will remember 1984 Olympics,” Fox said. “But we have to prepare for the worst. If its a Y2K we will pull the plug and send people home.”
The operations center will be a unified command consisting of LASD, LAPD, LAFD, Caltrans and CHP.
“They’re doing it again in six months, in October. The height of fire season,” warned Fox.
“Pretend it’s just Fourth of July weekend and stay home,” suggested Commission Chair Carol Randall.

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