6 Tips to Prepare for El Nino
El Nino Background Information
If you’ve lived on the West Coast for a while, you probably know a little about El Nino because you’ve experienced it throughout the years. However, let’s take a step back for a second and discuss El Nino from a scientific standpoint.
El Nino is a part of a weather cycle called El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. ENSO includes two phases – El Nino (the warm phase) and La Nina (the cold phase). These phases fluctuate based on the temperature of the ocean and occur about every 2-7 years. When we experience an episode of El Nino or La Nina, it typically lasts between 9-12 months.
El Nino happens when the waters of the Pacific Ocean are warmer than normal, which causes an ocean-atmosphere climate interaction. This interaction leads to a change in normal weather patterns across the country. This makes some parts of the U.S. experience warmer-than-normal temperatures while others experience colder-than-normal temperatures – and some areas experience wetter-than-normal conditions while others experience drier-than-normal conditions.
How El Nino Affects California
The interaction of the ocean and the atmosphere during El Nino years changes the location of jet streams on the West Coast. Jet streams normally come ashore in the Pacific Northwest, but in El Nino years, the jet stream is shifted downward toward California.
When the jet stream hits California it brings with it added moisture and the potential for storms. Therefore, in El Nino years, California experiences warmer than normal temperatures, and also increased rainfall. There are several consequences of increased rainfall, including flooding, landslides and erosion of the coast.
The 2015 – 2016 El Nino System
This year we are bracing ourselves for a particularly harsh El Nino system during the 2015-2016 winter – one of the harshest El Nino events on record. Meteorologists are forecasting a very active weather pattern that will include
- Heavy rainfall
- Above-average rainfall totals
- The potential for flooding and mudslides
While the rainfall will help with the recent drought conditions, the drought will actually magnify the impact of the El Nino rainfall. The drought has made the soil dry and hardened, so when heavy rains strike, the water will not be absorbed properly, causing mudslides and wash outs.
Meteorologists are comparing the 2015-2016 El Nino to El Nino years with similar patterns. This year’s system is most similar to the 1997-1998 and 1982-1983 seasons – the strongest El Nino events on record. Examining maps of these El Nino years, we can say with some level of certainty that Southern and Central California will likely experience a significant amount of rain.
6 Tips for Preparing for El Nino
Scientific predictions show that southern California will likely experience a powerful El Nino this year, as well as all that comes with it – rainfall, storms, flooding, mudslides and erosion. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prepare your home for these weather-related disasters. Here are 6 tips for preparing your home and your family for El Nino.
1. Clean Gutters
Gutters play a crucial role in times of rainfall by directing water away from your home. When your gutters are clogged with debris, it can cause a range of water-related damage. This includes roof damage, water leaking into or flooding your basement, weakening and cracking of the home’s foundation, rotting wood and the development of mold and mildew.
Cleaning your gutters is a tedious but relatively simple task. To clean the gutters you’ll need a secure ladder to climb up, and then you can remove debris such as sticks and leaves either using your hands or a plastic scoop. Once you’ve cleaned all the big stuff, flush the gutters and downspouts using a garden hose. This will allow you to clear out the smaller debris and also check to make sure there are no holes or leaks.
2. Check Water Valve & Learn How to Turn It Off
This is an important step if you have to deal with a plumbing emergency, such as a broken water pipe that is causing flooding in your home. Every house has a main shutoff valve that will stop the water supply to the entire house. It’s important that you check it to make sure it is functioning properly and so you know how to turn it off in an emergency situation.
The first step is to locate your water shut off valve. This can vary by city, but in warmer climates like California, the valve is often found outside where your water meter is located. You may consider asking your neighbor or checking online, as some cities (like Santa Barbara) have instructions online.
Once you’ve located your valve you should practice shutting it off, remembering how many turns it takes to shut the water off completely. While you perform this practice run, you should also take note of the valve condition. Does the valve seem to be working properly? Is it time to replace the valve? Make repairs as needed.
Knowing how to shut off your main water valve is important if you experience an emergency plumbing issue that is causing water to flood into your home. It is also important that you turn off the water valve before going on vacation to prevent any potential water damage while you are away.
3. Check Supply Lines for Leaks
Another good way to prepare for El Nino and other weather phenomena that may directly or indirectly cause home emergencies is to check your supply lines to make sure there are no leaks. More specifically, you should check both gas and water lines to make sure they are in good working condition.
While it is best to call a professional for a thorough leak check, there are several things you can do on your own. The simplest yet most effective is to do a visual check of all lines. Examine the lines under the sink, near the water heater, etc. and make sure the lines look in good condition and not worn. You should also look for pooling water or damp spots underneath sinks, and take notice of any gas smells.
There are also more specific ways to test your lines. For testing water leaks you can make sure all water is turned off inside the house, then record the data from the water meter now and in 15 minutes to see if there are any changes. For testing gas leaks, you may consider the soap solution bubble test, where a soapy water is applied to piping joints and connections and if you see soap bubbles forming then you likely have a leak.
Once again, the safest and most effective way to check for leaks is to hire a professional who will inspect your supply lines. This is something you should do regularly anyway, and the perfect time to do it is now before El Nino strikes in full force.
4. Proper Landscaping for Drainage Issues
When we think of landscaping we often think about beautifying our home’s exterior, but the right landscaping can also help you with drainage issues. Water that flows toward your house or pools on your lawn can lead to problems such as flooding and structural damage. If you have experienced these issues before, they will likely come back this El Nino season unless you take steps to correct the problem. Here are some common lawn drainage problems and potential solutions.
- If water seems to flow toward your home instead of away from it, you likely have a slope problem. Ideally the land should slope slightly down and away from the home, which moves the water toward the road and away from the house. The solution to your problem may be re-grading to get the proper slope.
- If your lawn includes one or more depressions where water pools, this is also a slope problem. Filling in the depression to make it even with the rest of the area should help.
- If water pools up under your downspout, you need a solution to move the water further away. One idea is to put a catch basin and underground drainage pipes that move the water out of the downspout and away from the home.
- If you experience general pooling of water on your lawn but don’t have depressions, it could be because of the quality or type of soil which is not porous enough to absorb the water. Lawn aeration will help create space in the soil, and you can also consider trees, shrubs and groundcover that work well in wet locations and soak up the excess water.
- If you experience flooding on your driveway, you may consider a channel drain installed right in the concrete that takes care of the problem
- In all cases of drainage problems, the most effective solution is to install an outdoor drainage system.
There are several causes of and solutions for drainage problems. Contact a landscaper to find the solutions that are right for your home.
5. Check for Rodents in Attic or Crawlspace
Rodents are unwelcome house guests for a number of reasons, but one in particular is that they can chew holes in your water lines, causing leaks and even flooding. During severe weather and storms, like those we will likely see during El Nino, the rodents will try to find a dry place to hide, so they may try to come inside your home.
There are several signs that you may have rodents in your attic. Use your senses to listen for scratching or chewing (particularly at night when they are most active), detect the smell of urine (which smells like ammonia), and see physical evidence such as chewed up insulation or boxes, droppings or nesting debris. You should also check for cracks and holes in the foundation, windows, ceilings, and roof. A mouse only needs a space about the size of a dime to gain entry.
If you find rodents in your attic, you can get rid of them with traps or fumigation, but it is also important that you repair and close up the points of entry to prevent new mice from entering in the future.
6. Check Coverage in Your Homeowner’s Insurance
In the case of water damage, you ideally want to be covered by insurance because water damage can be costly and time consuming to fix. Unfortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover all cases of water damage, so it’s important to review your policy to know how you are covered (and purchase additional insurance if needed).
Many homeowner’s insurance policies will cover you for water damage that happens inside the house, such as burst pipes or problems with plumbing and appliances. However, most policies do not cover damage caused by flooding – external sources such as an overflowing river, mudslide or heavy rains. You typically have to purchase separate flood insurance to cover these situations.
It’s important to look at your homeowner’s insurance policy now to understand the details related to flooding and water damage. You can speak to your company to get clarification, and purchase extra flood insurance if you live in an area that is prone to flooding.
In Case of Emergency
What to Do If You Experience Flooding
These El Nino preparation tips will help you get ready for what this winter has in store for us, but emergencies can happen even when you are well prepared. If you experience water damage, the first thing is to figure out the source. If the source is internal, such as a burst pipe, shut off the main water valve to prevent further damage. If the source is external, such as a river bed overflowing, follow these tips from the government flood preparation page:
- Evacuate if possible, but do not attempt to walk across streams of flowing water or drive through a flooded roadway.
- If you cannot evacuate, go to the top floor of your home, the attic, or the roof.
- Call emergency personnel such as the police or 911.
- Turn off utilities, power, or the gas valve if advised to do so.
- Stay tuned to weather updates using a battery-powered radio
Remember that in a flood situation, your safety and the safety of your family is the sole concern. Everything else, including the home, personal belongings and the water damage, can be dealt with later.
What to Do After Flood or Water Damage
After you’ve experienced a flood or other water damage (at a time when it is safe to return to the home), you should act immediately to prevent any further damage from occurring. You will want to file a claim with your insurance company, but you’ll also want to contact a professional disaster relief company to fix the damage and restore your home. The disaster relief company can help you with:
- Taking photos of the damage.
- Creating a list of damaged, lost and unsalvageable items.
- Surveying the structural damage.
- Safely removing wet contents.
- Using scientific procedures to dry your home properly.
- Preventing or correcting any mold damage.
There are many steps in properly restoring your home from water damage and a lot of hassle in submitting a solid insurance claim to get the most insurance money as possible. Professional disaster relief companies are trained to handle all of these details.
New Life Restoration
A Family Company Helping Your Family in Disaster Situations
New Life Restoration offers disaster relief services to residents and business owners in Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. We have the knowledge and experience to assist in a variety of disaster situations, and our services are delivered in a professional, caring manner that you’d expect from a family company.
The disaster relief areas we specialize in are:
- Water Damage
- Fire Damage
- Mold Remediation
- Trauma and Biohazard Cleanup
Our team is available 24/7 and our goal is to reach you within an hour and a half (depending on drive time). Our disaster relief team is skilled not only in cleaning up disasters, but also in fighting to get the most money for your insurance claim. Unlike other franchise disaster relief companies, we are not affiliated with insurance companies, so we work for you and only you. In addition to cleanup, we provide restoration services to restore your home to its previous condition, or remodeling services if you want to turn your disaster into a positive and get the upgrades you’ve been dreaming of.
We hope the tips in this document help prepare you for the upcoming El Nino season. In the case that you do experience water, fire, mold or trauma damage, our disaster relief experts are standing by to help. If you experience El Nino home damage, let our family help yours by calling us at (805) 925-1600 right away.