Northbound: El Niño has arrived

According to San Diego officials, emergency responders rose to the challenge of last week’s El Niño-enhanced storms.

On Monday, representatives from the city and county held a press conference to discuss El Niño preparedness and response. From the get-go, it was clear that there was a high level of planning and attention over the past few months to meet the safety needs of the region.

Some of the numbers rattled off were surprising: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer mentioned the city received more than 500 storm-related service calls and conducted more than 67 water rescues over a five-day period.

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said that her department received 1,300 more calls over Tuesday and Wednesday than usual. San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore noted that 6-inches of standing water is enough to sweep away small cars and pedestrians. Unknown is how many emergency calls and rescue requests were received in North County.

Other regional stakeholders are doing their part. An SDG&E spokesperson mentioned the utility conducted facility inspections in preparation for a wet winter, and provided their crews up-to-date weather forecasts from their in-house meteorologist. SDG&E announced that they also purchased 10,000 emergency preparedness kits for at-risk residents, and donated $70,000 for the purchase of three emergency generators to be used at county disaster shelters. Kudos to SDG&E for their efforts.

The public was given the usual safety tips — follow instructions by public safety personnel; have an emergency kit ready; plan alternate routes in case of flooding. San Diego City residents were also urged to call the city’s non-emergency hotline to reduce the volume of calls to 911. It would be great if North County residents had a unified non-emergency hotline, which could be routed based on the location of the caller or registered phone line.

Some El Niño safety tips shared that you may not already know — you can receive updates from the county’s mass emergency system by registering your mobile phone number at AlertSanDiego.org. If your home or property is damaged, you can submit a damage survey at sdcountyrecovery.com and help local officials file for disaster assistance. Comprehensive information on how you can prepare for El Niño, including where to find the nearest sandbags, can be found on the 211sandiego.org website, or by calling 211.

If last week was any indication, North County is in for a historically wet winter. There will be more traffic problems, more flooding, and more evacuations. Do your part, plan ahead and be safe on the roads. As Faulconer noted, “It’s not a city issue or a county issue. We’re all in this together.”

 

Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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