Rain reminds us of the importance of preparedness


After a winter of record rainfall in parts of California, not to mention the nearly unprecedented effects of Hurricane Hillary in August, weather prognosticators are forecasting a strong El Nino for the winter to continue through the spring, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A week before Thanksgiving the first rains came to Southern California spreading nominal to significant precipitation, and some experts say rainy weather conditions are just starting to crank. Generally, an El Nino means warm temperatures and heavier precipitation. Regardless, winter preparedness is no small matter.

The last few years have added terms like snowmageddon, bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers to the weather lexicon. For that reason, ReadyOC, Orange County’s leading emergency preparedness resource, should be kept close at hand. Whether traveling for the holidays or staying close to home, there are simple precautions and steps can and should be taken.

Locally, rain and flooding are the biggest concerns. And every year, firefighters are called upon to make swiftwater rescues of those who are either unaware of the dangers of flowing water, or just want to test it.

As the ReadyOC website notes, “Flooding is one of Orange County’s most likely disasters. Flash floods can strike any time with little or no warning turning Orange County streets and freeways into rivers within seconds.”

There are no guarantees how this year’s forecasts will turn out, although globally climatologists say severe weather is becoming the standard due to climate change.

Heavy rains also bring the likelihood of downed tree limbs and the possible loss of electricity and other utilities.

ReadyOC has a special page on flooding to educate the public on the dangers. In addition, the Ready to React page is filled with disaster preparedness information including first aide, cellular response tips, and public alerts systems.

As ReadyOC states, “Remember, just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”

Don’t let the rivers wash you away

Heavy rain, clogged drains, and failed pumping stations can lead to streets and low-lying areas being awash in muddy waters. Here are some things to consider with regard to flooding:

  • In case of flood, during inclement weather stay inside if possible.
  • To protect a home from being flooded, keep storm drains clear. If the property is prone to flooding, have sandbags, plastic sheeting, and other flood-fighting materials on hand.
  • Learn how to turn off water, gas, and electricity connections to the home in the event that a home is flooded. Contact local utility companies for help. You can also visit the ReadyOC website here for a full list of utility tips.
  • If an evacuation is needed, remember that more people are trapped and die in their vehicles than anywhere else during a flood. Do not drive through moving water. The NOAA Flooding Safety Card is a good reference, and can be printed and stored in the glovebox.
  • Never drive around barricades. Local responders use barricades to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas. And don’t check out the rushing waters in nearby creeks and rivers. Keep a safe distance.
  • Be careful crossing bridges over fast-moving water, as bridges can be washed away with little warning.
  • If a vehicle becomes trapped in rapidly moving water, stay inside the vehicle or climb on the roof if water is rising inside the car.
  • If flood waters are filling a building, only climb to the roof if necessary or if directed by emergency personnel.
  • Because of the potential for high winds along with rain, try to not park where toppled limbs and trees can damage your car.

Be prepared

Pay attention to weather forecasts, flash flood warnings, listen to local authorities, and sign up for AlertOC. The mass notification system is designed to keep residents and businesses informed of emergencies that may require immediate action. Those signed in receive time-sensitive and location-specific voice or text messages from the county or city on home, cell, or business phones. Messages can also be sent to email accounts and TTY devices.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) can be found at caloes.ca.gov and listoscalifornia.org. Like ReadyOC and Alert OC, the state’s websites are repositories of information about disaster awareness and preparedness.

In heavy raining weather, buildings may lose power, water, and other utilities, sometimes for extended periods of time. Everyone should have an emergency kit ready with sufficient water, nonperishable food, and medications for at least three days, and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

Make sure to have a first aid kit, flashlight, batteries, can opener, and cell phone and electronic cables and chargers available, as well as a household inventory with copies of critical documents.

A longer list of emergency preparations can be found on Ready.gov, including instructions for establishing a family communication and shelter plan for emergencies. Make it a priority to discuss strategies for communication, evacuation if necessary, and reunification. Arrange places to gather in case of emergency: in the home, in the neighborhood, and elsewhere.