County prepares for El Niño

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SAN DIEGO — The county of San Diego announced Tuesday that it has placed storm preparation information on its website and its Spanish-language counterpart,

By clicking the “El Niño Ready” banner at the top of the page, readers can learn about the status of El Niño — which is expected to bring more rain than usual to Southern California this winter — creating a family disaster plan, obtaining sandbags and checking insurance policies.

Residents can also sign up for Alert San Diego, which provides phone and email emergency notifications.

The websites include a link to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps, which can be searched by addresses, place names or coordinates.

A study released last week by the National University System Institute for Policy Research found that nearly 54,600 San Diegans, or 1.75 percent of county residents, live in areas that could be subject to flooding during El Niño-fueled rainstorms. The affected residents live in mostly known flood plains that appear in U.S. Geological Survey data used by insurance companies.

County emergency officials said residents shouldn’t solely base risk on their neighborhood’s flood history, but take into account the conditions of hillsides and storm drains around their house. Erosion can be prevented or eased on slopes by planting groundcovers and shrubs, pouring down mulch or terracing, they said.

Officials said Department of Public Works crews are inspecting and clearing county road and drainage culverts. County damage assessment teams are being organized for deployment and recovery options are being streamlined in case heavy rainfall produces significant flood damage to properties.

City of San Diego officials are taking similar steps, according to a series of presentations given last week to the City Council’s Environment Committee.

At a meeting at the county Office of Emergency Management, Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service said the current El Niño could be the strongest on record. The storms might or might not be stronger than usual, but they could be more frequent and last until April, Tardy told around 100 first responders and government officials.

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