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LA County Launches Real-Time Weather Tracker, Urges Residents To Prep For 'El Niño'

LOS ANGELES ( —  Southland residents were being urged Wednesday to begin stockpiling sandbags, cleaning storm drains and taking other steps in preparation for a potentially record-setting El Niño event.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have announced the launch of a county website with real-time weather data that will be available in 83 languages as officials prepare to respond to torrential rains, flooding and debris flows later this fall.

An L.A. County memo dated Sept. 15 (PDF) outlines an "emergency response program" that includes positioning swift water search-and-rescue teams at strategic locations throughout the county and deputies in place to shut down roads and conduct any necessary evacuations.

County crews are also stocking and distributing sandbags, while public work employees have been clearing out thousands of debris and catch basins, according to the memo.

As part of the countywide effort, teams of social workers and deputies will reach out to individuals in homeless encampments to encourage them to relocate to temporary shelter in advance of major storms, officials said. More shelter beds are also expected to be available on a 24-hour basis.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors agreed to earmark about $900,000 to extend the operating period and hours for local winter shelters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for county officials is getting residents to check the new El Nino website, which can be accessed
from any smartphone and "updated from anywhere at anytime," according to county spokesman David Sommers.

Twitter will also be critical as a "mass communication tool," Sommers said. Facebook is also going to be "very important", according to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

Residents less familiar with web-based technology may call (800) 675-HELP (4357) for updates and to report problems, public works director Gail Farber said.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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