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Why is this El Ñino so dangerous?

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Heat sensors show that this Year's El Nino is already warmer than that in 1997

Satellite thermal images show that the current El Niño is already warmer than that of 1997, which caused mud slides, coastal flooding, 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage.

What is El Niño?

Every two-to-seven years, an El Niño forms off the equatorial Pacific around Peru and Ecuador bringing unusually warm water. This warmth causes havoc with Southern California weather. For example, during the 1997 El Niño, more than seven inches of rain fell in parts of Orange County in one day, creating flooding and mudslides. Together with several more powerful storms, that El Niño caused 17 deaths and more than a half a billion dollars in damage to California.

According to NOAA, this El Niño is already as strong, and may be stronger than the 1997 El Niño. Since it continues to intensify, some scientists suggest it might be the strongest ever. For example, temperatures are 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal here in San Diego, while they were only 5 degrees above average during the strongest El Niño.

Area-averaged upper-ocean heat (°C) in the equatorial Pacific as differs from the 1981-2010 base period.

Potential Flooding

While we look forward to increased precipitation to ease our drought, the down side to all this free water is potentially wide-spread flooding.

Flood Preparations

  1. Have a communication plan to reach family and friends in event of evacuations.
  2. Have enough food, water and medicines on hand for at least three days. Also have a battery-powered radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, first aid kit, cell phone, etc.
  3. If you live, work or go to school in a flood plain (low lying area), plan the fastest route to high ground, your regular roads could be flooded. (Have two exit options).
  4. Make sure outside drains, gutters, or water flow areas are cleaned out, so water does not back up.
  5. Have sand bags ready and filled if you live in an area likely to flood.
  6. Remember standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, check with you insurance agent about coverage.
  7. Seal basement walls with waterproofing, make sure your sump pumps are working correctly, and move valuable items out of the basement to higher areas.
  8. Contact local authorities for assessment if you live near a fire burn scar. Excess rain will saturate soil and may cause steeper slopes to move.
  9. If flooding is imminent, disconnect electrical appliances and turn off utilities at main switch or valve, if instructed to do so.

During a Flood

  1. Stay informed. Monitor radio, television and social media for information.
  2. If told to evacuate, do so immediately. If you feel concerned or not safe, leave for higher ground.
  3. Don’t go into a basement or any room if water covers electrical outlets or electrical cords are submerged. If you see sparks, or hear crackling, popping or snapping noise, get out.
  4. Do not walk in flood waters. Only six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If trapped by moving water, move to the highest point and call 911 for help.
  5. Do not drive on flooded roads or around barricades.  Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide many hazards (washed out roads, electrical lines, chemicals, etc.). A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept way in seconds. Twelve inches will float a car or small SUV and 18 inches will carry away larger vehicles. 
  6. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

After a Flood

  1. Be prepared to boil tap water unless authorities say it is safe to drink. (Radio or TV)
  2. Avoid floodwaters, the water may be contaminated with oil, gas or sewage, or electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  3. Be aware of areas where water has receded, as roads might have been weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  4. Return home when it is safe, but never to a building still surrounded by water.
  5. Service septic tanks, leach fields, etc. as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  6. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet, then dry thoroughly to avoid mold. Mud left from floodwater can contain chemicals and sewage.