An El Nino is a tropical weather pattern which can have significant impacts in the northern hemisphere. This weather pattern is characterized by an above average warming of the surface temperature of the eastern portion of the Pacific Ocean. This can cause extreme weather conditions such as mild winters in the eastern and northern sections of the United States and heavy rains causing localized flooding in the western part of the country.
While more rain would be welcome after the fourth year of drought in California, large amounts of rain in a short time span can also create problems.
During this past summer, City of Escondido employees began taking steps to ensure appropriate measures are taken in preparation for potential heavy rains this winter.
Here are some of the actions the City has taken:
- Provided additional Disaster Management Training for key city employees that staff the City's Emergency Operations Center.
- Began cleaning flood control channels, as well as checked local storm drain gutter inlets for clogs or debris
- Pruned trees especially those weakened by the drought
- Replenished supply of sand bags at Public Works Yard for City Use
- Stockpiled free sand and bags at Kit Carson Park for residents to use
- Ensured adequate sign inventory for “Flooded” road signs, “Stop” signs, “Street Closed” signs, and “Detour” signs
- Established internal protocols and staffing plans in key departments (Police, Fire, Utilities, Public Works) to respond to storm conditions or hazards
- Secured availability of dump trucks, loaders, backhoes, skid steers, chippers, aerial booms, skip loaders, generators and chainsaws
- Identified known locations prone to flooding or mud slides as well as staff members responsible for multiple inspections/ daily maintenance during storms
- Placed k-rail on Lake Wohlford Road for rapid response to potential mudslides
- Identified water lift stations and wastewater pump stations in areas prone to flooding and taken proactive steps to ensure their operation
- Developed plan to decrease storage of imported water in order to capture rain water at lakes and reservoirs
- Checked gutters and downspouts on city buildings to be sure they are free from obstructions to allow rapid draining of water
- Reviewed emergency preparedness plans with first-responder staff
- Updated information on City website to educate public about preparing for winter storms
- Identified key personnel responsible for keeping the public informed through social media platforms and the website
In addition to the steps the City of Escondido has taken, it is important for residents to be properly prepared too. Many of the same measures taken in preparing for an earthquake will work well during winter storms and resulting flooding. Be prepared for flooding by learning what to do before, during, and after.
Before the Storm:
- Remind children not to play or swim in creeks or flood control channels, especially during rainy weather.
- Check your homeowner's or renter's insurance for flood insurance coverage. If none exists and your home is in a flood plain, contact your insurance agent.
- Keep your car fueled and ready to go.
- Know safe routes to higher, safe ground from your home and workplace.
- Keep sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, and other emergency building materials handy for waterproofing. The City of Escondido provides sand and empty bags for filling at the Kit Carson Park Amphitheater. The park is located at 3333 Bear Valley Parkway and is open from sunrise to sunset. Residents will need to bring their own shovels and be prepared to fill the sand bag themselves. Maximum limit of 10 bags per person. For instructions on filling and placing sandbags, see Sandbag Information. Special thanks to George Weir Asphalt Construction for its generous donation of sand.
- Clear debris from all roof drains, gutters, downspouts, yard drains, and private drainage channels.
- If your property has flooded in the past, consider placing sandbags to divert water flow away from your home
- Secure all loose lawn furniture or other loose items in your yard when a storm is approaching.
- Trim trees, especially those with large over-hanging branches.
- Make sure pool and spa drains are in good working order and keep water at a safe level.
- Make sure that water drains away from in-ground swimming pools and that it can't accumulate alongside it. When the ground is saturated by long periods of heavy rains, pools without hydrostatic valves have been known to float out of the ground.
- If you are a renter, contact the landlord or property manager about leaking roofs and other potential problems.
During the Flooding:
- Avoid areas that are subject to flooding.
- Do not try to cross a flowing stream if the water is above your knees. Strong currents can sweep you away in as little as six inches of water.
- If you must drive, advise others of your destination and intended route. Drive slowly and avoid flooded areas. Swiftly flowing water can wash a car along wherever it flows.
- If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.
- Obey road barricades; don't move or drive around them. Never "sightsee" in flooded areas.
- Be alert to power lines that have been toppled by wind or trees or broken gas lines. Report them immediately to 9-1-1.
- Use the telephone only for emergency needs or to report dangerous conditions. For information about the storm, tune radio or television to local station.
- If flooding is threatening your home and time permits, move valuable household possessions to the upper floors or as high within a room as possible.
- If advised by local authorities to evacuate, move immediately to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water. Before leaving, call your family "out of state" contact with your intended destination. Disconnect all electrical appliances, and, if advised by your local utility, shut off electric circuits at the fuse panel and gas service at the meter.
After the Flooding:
- If gas has been turned off, do NOT turn it on yourself. Wait for a utility crew or call a qualified professional.
- Do not use fresh foods or canned goods that have come in contact with flood waters. Canned foods can be consumed if the are treated properly after a flood. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
- Follow local instructions regarding the safety of drinking water. If in doubt, boil or purify water before drinking. Have wells pumped out and the water tested before drinking.
- Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas. If electrical equipment or appliances have been in contact with water, have them checked before use.
- Use flashlights, not lanterns, matches or candles, to examine buildings to prevent flammables that may be inside from igniting.
- Continue to monitor radio or television broadcasts for further information from local authorities.