The cities of Carlsbad and Escondido are in the midst of preparations for the upcoming El Nino weather system expected to land this winter with possibly above-normal precipitation. Both entities are identifying potential hazard areas, such as the charred remains of the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad last year. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Cities acting in anticipation of rainy season

REGION — Weather is coming.

The million-dollar question is, however, how much precipitation will fall?

Although the answer must wait until the massive El Niño weather system actually hits North San Diego County. Nevertheless, the city of Carlsbad is already in action preparing for big rains.

Senior Management Analyst Craddock Stropes of Carlsbad’s Public Works Department said her department is hard at work identifying flood zones, construction projects and clearing storm drains throughout the city.

“We will update them (the City Council) next month to give a heads up on what the city has done so far,” Stropes said.

Clear streets are a priority, she added, including the annual storm drain program. Stropes said all drains will be cleaned by the end of the year, while the city has also doubled the number of sandbags available for city use and residents.

Other priorities include a stockpile of road signs for traffic impacts, securing heavy equipment such as trucks and backloaders to remove debris. In addition, several contractors will be available in an on-call capacity.

“We have plans to install … things to prevent flooding and over flooding of the storm drains,” Stropes explained.

For example, the city is using data from previous storms and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify potential flood areas. Also, the information will be implemented for erosion control to prevent or holdback possible mudslides.

“As we approach the rainy season, we will continue to keep an eye on things like construction schedules,” Stropes added. “We know there are a lot of construction activities going on in the city. We want to identify areas where there might be flooding hot spots.”

Due east, meanwhile, similar preparations are being made in Escondido.

The city’s website includes a link with detailed information concerning city efforts and what residents should do before, during and after any large storms.

As for the city, additional training has been completed for the Emergency Operations Center, stockpiled sandbags, secured pruned trees, clearing flood channels and storm drains, secured heavy equipment, identified flood zones and much more.

Escondido is also hosting an emergency preparedness workshop for residents from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday at the community room of the police and fire headquarters, 1163 N. Centre City Parkway.

“What I recommend is that people take it serious,” Escondido Public Works Director Ed Domingue said. “Look to be prepared. What’s the worst that could happen if we clean up and maintain the things that we ought to be cleaning and maintaining and there’s no rain?”

Tina Stall, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Diego, said the average winter rainfall for Oceanside is about 10.5 inches, while San Diego is just over 10 inches.

However, this El Niño is an area with above-normal ocean temperatures near the Equatorial Pacific.

It affects the jet stream, which steers the storm system north.

Currently, Stall said, the Climate Prediction Center estimates the ocean area affected by El Niño is about two degrees warmer than normal.

As a result, Stall said this season is “on par” with the 1997-98 season and may be stronger.

“We are currently in a strong El Niño pattern, as far as ocean temperatures go,” Stall said. “We won’t see the strong atmospheric response for another month or two. When you have a strong El Niño, that typical results in a greater chance for above-normal precipitation.”

Currently, Stropes said the city is in the planning stages with each department and various entities such as the Carlsbad Unified School District to develop effective plans to ensure safety.

“We are monitoring the reports out of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration),” she said. “We sort of have a good idea of where potential areas of flooding are. We are paying attention to the area charred by the Poinsettia Fire.”

The city, meanwhile, will also post updates on its website, newsletter and social media platforms.