Newport Elementary School students participate in the annual jog-a-thon in November as clouds roll in. Forecasters predict up to 3 inches of rain Friday and Saturday. A smaller storm is expected to bring some downpour early Thursday as well. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / November 20, 2013)

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By the time most Newport Beach residents wake up Thursday morning, the Municipal Operations Department plans to be hard at work.

With high tides anticipated to coincide with two rain storms, the city has started preparations to protect its low-lying areas.

Employees were expected to arrive at 4 a.m. to get a head start on protecting streets and walkways from possible flooding.

When the tides rise above 6 feet, as was expected for Thursday, drain valves on Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula must be closed to keep water from flowing backward from the harbor into the streets.

"That's where the real risk lies," said City Councilman Mike Henn, who represents the area.

Closing the valves can cause problems in times of heavy rainfall because the water has no place to drain, said Mike Pisani, acting municipal operations director.

Crews planned to combat the problem with mobile pump stations to physically pump water back over the sea wall and into the bay, he said.

"While it doesn't happen all the time, it's fairly routine," Pisani said. "We've learned how to respond over the years."

The typical beach and storm crews would be supplemented with staff from city asphalt and concrete teams, who can't work in the wet conditions.

To help residents brace for the storms, Newport Beach has offered them up to 10 free sandbags, available at the City's Corporation Yard on Wednesday and Thursday.

Henn said he might pick up a few bags.

"Other than that, it's just keep a watchful eye," he said, "and not picking up any electric wires."

Forecasters predict the bulk of the rainfall — up to 3 inches — will arrive Friday and Saturday. A smaller storm is expected to bring rain early Thursday to Los Angeles and Orange counties.

"It's pretty widespread," said Tina Stall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It's pretty much getting everybody. No one will be spared."

High tide is expected at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. Friday, Pisani said.

[For the record, 11:19 a.m. Feb. 27: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Laguna Beach was giving residents free sandbags. In fact, it's Newport Beach.]