The forecast for a strong El Niño is making news with an El Niño weather pattern that could be one of the strongest on record. While there are no guarantees, there is the potential for a significant wet winter. As a result, American Red Cross is encouraging residents to prepare their homes and property for the coming wet weather and to arm themselves with safety tips – before significant storms arrive.
“With the threat of El Niño ahead, it is important for every family to be prepared for flooding, landslides, power outages and more,” said Gary Strong, CEO of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Make sure everyone in your home is prepared for disasters big and small. Have an emergency kit always ready to go with essential items like food, water, medications, and flashlights.”
As with any disaster, preparation can be the difference between life and death. The Red Cross recommends that individuals and families prepare for El Niño by taking several steps in advance of the stormy season.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to your mobile devices: The Red Cross Emergency App provides people with instant access to emergency alerts and life-saving information. Available for smart phones and tablets, it includes content on what to do before, during and after a variety of severe weather events. Users can customize more than 35 emergency weather alerts based on their location and where loved ones live. The app also includes tips on how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of a power outage or evacuation, an “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know you are okay, and a real-time map to help you find the location of Red Cross shelters should you need to leave your home. The app has a Spanish language toggle switch and can be downloaded by visiting redcross.org/apps.
Create and practice a Disaster Plan: Talk to everyone in your household about what to do if a flood occurs. Decide where you would meet and who you would contact in case of flooding. Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit. Be prepared to evacuate your family and pets at a moment’s notice. To locate the nearest Red Cross emergency shelter, check your flood app or visit redcross.org/shelter. Listen to area radio and television stations for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress.
Assemble an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Kits should contain a first aid kit and a seven-day supply of essential medications, foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration and manual can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, copies of important documents like your insurance policies, cell phone chargers, family and emergency contact information, maps of the area and other emergency items for the whole family.
Heed Storm Warnings: A severe storm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the designated area. People in a watch area should keep informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. A severe storm warning means severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Seek shelter immediately. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
Heed Flood Warnings: Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated flood information. A flood watch means flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area. A flood warning means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
Relocate During Flood Warnings: Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankle, stop, turn around and go another way. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Keep children and pets out of the water, as they are curious and can be harmed by flowing or contaminated water. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
Respond During a Landslide: Stay alert and awake. Many deaths from landslides occur while people are sleeping. If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire or police department. Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. Such changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly. Be especially alert when driving – watch for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flow. If you are ordered or decide to evacuate, take your animals with you. Consider a precautionary evacuation of large or numerous animals as soon as you are aware of impending danger.
The best protection is to be prepared ahead of time. For more information on what to do before, during and after a flood, landslide and more, visit redcross.org/prepare.
The Gold Country Red Cross Region serves a 24 county territory including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties.