Northbound: A region, underwater

Get your umbrellas out, North County residents! We’re in the middle of a wet and stormy winter.

The National Weather Service forecasts across five days starting this Thursday, we’ll be receiving two to four inches of rain on the coasts, six to 12 inches on coastal slopes, and three to six inches inland.

We’re also at an extraordinary risk of flash flooding, river flooding, and tree damage from strong winds. More wet weather is expected in the weeks ahead.

If you recall, two years ago, there were high expectations and wild speculation that we’d experience a strong “Godzilla” El Niño event.

Technically now, we’re in a La Niña phase — where weather patterns are supposed to be less damaging and severe than El Niño.

After four years of droughts and unseasonably hot, dry weather, I find it a relief to see that rain clouds haven’t abandoned us forever. Rainfall has been above average in North County, and countywide we’re already more than halfway to meeting our average total annual rainfall — a period which ends in September.

For all the good that this rain is doing for us, I’m concerned about our most vulnerable populations in North County — seniors, the disabled, and low income families, who may be living in areas at risk of flooding, or are not prepared for flooding on their property.

I was surprised to learn anecdotally the number of people who don’t have rain gutters installed, or have sandbags ready, in the event of rain.

As blessed as we are for having sunshine year round, it’s easy to forget we need to prepare for the worst every season.

I know North County cities are doing their best to get the word out about the winter storm we’re experiencing — Carlsbad’s city website has a list of handy tips on its main page for residents to follow, to avoid accidents and problems during the rainfall. Others are providing free sandbags. But I ask, can we do more?

A couple years ago, I had an idea for a volunteer brigade that would help at-need residents with storm preparation at their home — trimming branches, installing rain gutters, digging trenches. Volunteers could be matched with residents nearby who could use their help, probably through a phone app. I think the need is high, and too often our response to weather events is reactionary, not preventative.

I talked with some folks in Carlsbad, and they think the volunteer brigade is a good idea.

I’m interested in working with a phone app developer to see what a volunteer app would look like. Let’s see — I’ll be sure to update you in a future column if this app idea goes anywhere.

Fingers crossed. There’s a lot that can be accomplished through charitable donations, volunteer muscle and some extra time — perhaps North County can lead and inspire others in our region when the next storm hits.

Vince Vasquez is staying high and dry in Carlsbad.

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