Peninsula prepares for storm 

San Mateo County officials are preparing for imminent winter storms by giving away sandbags and asking residents to remove leaves and other debris from storm drains and catch basins.

Sandbags are available for county residents at 25 locations, said Marilyn Harang, superintendent for Redwood City Public Works Services.

Residents are advised to contact their local public works department to find sandbags at a location near their homes.

In addition to handing out sandbags, Redwood City has put their leaf vacuum crew on standby to clear leaves from storm drains and other critical areas.

"We have tried to remove as many leaves and other debris from basins and drains, but with the high winds we expect to see more leaves on the streets, which will make it harder for rain water to make it to the drains," Harang said.

Each summer, crews from public works departments countywide clear away debris, vegetation and trash from storm drains and creeks in compliance with the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program.

"While as a program we don't really deal with flood control issues, what we do has flood control benefits," SMCWPPP spokesman Matthew Fabry said. "Municipalities are required to go out and do cleaning of the storm drain system on an annual basis," which inherently makes it easier to prevent flooding when winter arrives, he said.

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said that crews from her agency will also be on standby throughout the duration of the storm system to clean storm drains, clear downed trees and

keep the highway advisory radio and electronic message signs systems working.

"We have equipment and materials such as plows, sand and salt at the ready," Wonder said. "How much we will need to repair is dependent on what Mother Nature gives us."

Caltrans maintenance and construction employees as well as geotechnical and hydraulic engineers will be available to go out to the scene of a flood or accident and be able to appraise the damage immediately, Wonder

said. Team members will then assess the extent of the damage and decide whether Caltrans workers can fix it or if they will need to get an emergency contract with a construction crew.

Three storms expected in the Bay Area beginning today will make up "one of the most powerful storms in the past two years," said Steve Anderson, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Approximately 2 to 4 inches of rain are expected in the Bay Area, and local mountains could receive up to 8 inches of rain between today and Sunday, Anderson said.

County residents can find winter storm tips and other information about emergency preparedness at the county Web site: Preparing for the Storm 2008

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