It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: How to Prepare for This Year’s El Niño

California has its fair share of natural disasters, from wildfires to earthquakes – all can damage property and leave residents with costly repairs or even homeless. We have recently seen this with the wildfires that are tearing through Northern California, displacing many residents and prompting FEMA to provide relief in the form of temporary shelter and financial assistance. But there’s another natural disaster that may be looming – severe flooding.

Experts are warning that this winter, Southern California will experience the strongest El Niño storm conditions in 18 years. JPL climatologist Bill Patzert, who has been tracking El Niño on satellites for months, said So Cal should expect heavy rainfall and storms that could trigger flooding and mudslides.

Is California ready for this onslaught of rain? While we need it because of the persisting drought, these same drought conditions have made areas of California more prone to flooding. The dry, bare land will not soak up rainfall, and heavy flooding could create rushing streams of water that could leave damage in their wake. Certain counties have already started preparing for the arrival of El Niño, creating websites that offer residents resources for how to protect their property from flooding while preparing for a disaster situation. Property owners can also check if they’re in a flood zone with FEMA’s flood-hazard maps .

Emergency managers caution that just because you haven’t experienced flooding in past storms, that doesn’t mean you are necessarily safe from flooding in a future storm. Water, mud and debris will flow downhill and pose a threat. It is recommended that you prevent the possibility of erosion around your home by using mulch, terracing slopes or planting a variety of ground covers or shrubs. Drainage channels should be checked routinely to ensure there are no blockages.

It is also important to check if you have proper insurance coverage, in case your property does sustain damage in a flood. Home owners can check with their insurance carriers to see if they need flood insurance, or if their policy is up-to-date. You do not need to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance. FEMA offers a National Flood Insurance Program  that aims to not only protect property owners, but also encourage communities to adopt and enforce flood plain management regulations.

There are many online resources, such as FloodSmart.gov, to help you prepare for the possibility of flooding during this year’s El Niño that may wreak havoc on California’s fragile drought-stricken land.

Are you considering taking preemptive measures to protect your home from flood risk? We’d love to hear from you.

  • Lucas McMillan

    Good idea to advise homeowners to be prepared even if they haven’t had a history of flooding in their home. With erosion and climate change, you can never be too safe.