ESCONDIDO — In front of a near packed house at Police and Fire Headquarters, residents here took in a two-hour emergency preparedness forum.
Officials from the city of Escondido, Rincon del Diablo Water District and National Weather Service laid out drought conditions, emergency protocols and, of course, the upcoming El Niño season.
Greg Thomas, general manager with Rincon, reported the epic drought conditions in Southern California and the state. Those levels, he said, is unprecedented and reinforced conservation efforts and laid out plans of his outfit and the city teaming together in anticipation of big storms this winter.
Thomas said conditions worsened this year as the rainfall reached 37.2 inches, about 13 inches less than average. In addition, much of the Escondido area is in above normal fire danger areas, which could present problems should large storms hit this winter.
“The rainy season starts this month and runs through April,” Thomas said.
Alicia Powell of the city’s utility department, highlighted safety tips for residents. In addition, she also updated the audience on the efforts by city crews in cleaning and clearing storm drains, ditches, gutters and identifying potential flood zones.
Powell said the city has stockpiled heavy equipment such as trucks, loaders, backhoes and other machinery.
Finally, she said the city installed K-rails, cement barriers, on Lake Wohlford Road to prevent mudslides should they occur.
“Our Storm Patrol will be on stand by,” she added. “We have checked 40 ‘hot spots’ for debris.”
Powell said residents could fill sandbags at Kit Carson Park at no cost, although individuals must fill the bags. She added residents must prevent sediment and dirt runoff during storms. To battle those conditions, she said sandbags, silt fences, fiber rolls and hydroseeds, among other measures, are options to stop sediment from running into the drainage system.
Other safety tips include pruning trees and bushes, elevating hazardous materials in homes, using rain barrels for collection, cleaning rain gutters and turning off irrigation systems 48 hours prior to rainfall.
Meanwhile, Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service, who was not in attendance but provided a video report of El Niño, detailed the system’s strength.
He said El Niño’s effects pushes the Jet Stream down from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California. With it can come large amounts of precipitation, although there have been years where little rain or snow has accumulated.
Still, Tardy said residents should prepare for above-normal precipitation even though it is not guaranteed.
“February and March is typically strong for El Niño’s and it gets wet,” he added.
Jeff Murdock, Escondido’s emergency preparedness manager, detailed many tips for residents such as stocking portable generators, flashlights, batteries, food, water and clothes.
He said crisis response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has increased from 72 hours to 96 hours.
Murdock also detailed the city’s efforts as every employee has been trained as a “disaster service worker.”
In the case of losing power, he stressed residents to register their cellphones with Alert San Diego, a reverse 9-1-1 system, which distributes information during disasters. For the hearing impaired, Murdock said those individuals can use Accessible San Diego.
El Nino information:
For detailed information and safety tips, visit the city of Escondido’s website at escondido.org and click on the “El Niño preparations” link on the left side of the home page.
Residents can also call the city at (760) 839-4668 to report problem areas.