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Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Señor El Niño: The Great Wet Hope

A significant El Niño is forecast to douse us with heavy rain this winter. Exactly what is an El Niño? How should we prepare for it? And what about the drought?

El Nino pier With all the excitement over the recent rain, let’s not forget we are still in a drought situation. Climatologists say that the northern Sierra Nevada will need about 75 inches of rain this winter to even make a dent in the drought. The average precipitation in the northern Sierra Nevada is about 50 inches, but the all-time record is 88.5 inches, which came during the El Niño winter of 1982/83.

What is an El Niño?

El Niño refers to a pattern of unusually warm water stretching across the surface of eastern equatorial Pacific that occurs every 3-7 years. That warm water influences climate patterns around the world, increasing the likelihood of wet and cool weather in the Southeast, heavy rain in California, warm and dry conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and host of other global impacts. El Nino mapWith the forecast calling for El Niño conditions this winter, hopefully we will start seeing some real relief from the drought. Keep in mind that our local officials are planning for the worst this winter – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials confirmed last week that an El Niño was strengthening in the Pacific Ocean and could drop more rain than it did in 1997/98. If you lived in Southern California then, you probably remember what a real El Niño looks and feels like: torrential rain, flooding, beach erosion and mudslides.

Be Prepared

So, what should we learn from or prior experience? Well, we should all make sure we are ready when it comes this time, right?

We’ve got a few suggestions on ways you can prepare just in case the worst does happen:

  • El Nino rainbowPrepare a cache of emergency supplies. This includes keeping a set of emergency cooking equipment, food, fresh batteries, flashlights and portable radios in good working order. If you live in an area prone to flooding, keep a steady supply of plywood, plastic sheeting and sandbags to protect your property.
  • Form an evacuation plan. If you live in an area prone to flooding, be ready. The key to surviving an El Niño flood is to learn the safest route away from your home to a safe area, in case you need to evacuate in a hurry. Without an evacuation plan, you might turn from evacuees into refugees.
  • Purchase flood insurance ahead of time. Often, flooding is not covered under natural disaster insurance and will require a separate insurance policy specifically for flooding. Contact your insurance provider about flood insurance. Don’t wait until the rains come to apply! Most insurance companies have a 30-day waiting period before this policy can be effective. Keep your insurance policies and itemized list of personal property in a safe location.

By following these steps you and your family will be prepared, should the worst happen.

The Drought Continues

Weather prediction, while advanced, is still a prediction. So, even though there is a very real chance of a significant El Niño this winter, don’t let that faucet run just yet. We all need to continue to conserve our water and try to help save every drop we can. Image credits: Jim Martin

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