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Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Nov 22, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelThe strongest-ever El Nino is on the way. California is supposed to face major storms and quite possibly the wettest winter we’ve had in recent history.

Climate scientists say this year’s El Nino will not just be another “has-been” weather possibility. It’s far too strong for that. It cannot fail. At a minimum, we will have a wetter-than-average winter. At its maximum potential? We could be swimming down the 405 instead of driving.

El Nino is the periodic warming of the equatorial sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The latest evaluation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the area in the Pacific 5 degrees north and south of the equator is 3 degrees Celsius higher than normal. That is higher than the reading in 1997, which was the last strong El Nino.

It is predicted that the worst of the El Nino will peak in January, February and March. This El Nino is expected to be among the strongest since 1950. It is expected that we will see between 60 and 69 percent above normal rainfall.

Flooding, high creek levels, rough seas, mud slides, flowing water with debris are all expected in California, especially in the burn areas. The drought in the state may exacerbate the problem.

elnino06Very dry ground is so compacted that it cannot readily absorb rain water. Therefore, it will flow downhill, picking up debris and causing havoc near our homes and streets where we travel. FEMA is suggesting flood insurance for everyone, even if you don’t live in areas that are prone to flooding.

With strong El Ninos, there may be tornados forming across our area. Be prepared for all sorts of weather anomalies. Make sure you have flashlights or candles for light in case the power goes off. Have tools within easy reach to turn off your gas line. Have emergency rations of food, perhaps a tent and an emergency camp stove. Of course, you will want an ample supply of fresh water, too, and maybe iodine tablets and a water filter in case you need to purify water at some point.

Prepare your storm drains and gutters by cleaning them out, and test them to make sure the water will flow efficiently down the pipes. Be prepared with sandbags; check your trees for weak limbs and trim them. Remove brush and debris that might block water from flowing freely off of your property. Clean out your storm drains and water drainage systems. Place mulch of plastic sheeting on hillsides. Secure this with sandbags. This will help to prevent erosion. If you have any low-lying areas in the yard, build a barrier with sandbags to keep the water and mud from heading to that spot.

elnino07Food during a disaster could be difficult to find, expensive or just non-existent. Make sure you have a fully stocked pantry at all times.

El Nino is just beginning to rear its ugly head. Regions of warm water off the coast of Mexico can cause warm air to rise, and that can cause tropical cyclones. Hurricane Patricia in Mexico is one example of this. This hurricane is one of the first indicators that El Nino is almost here.

In California, El Nino means lots of rain. But in other regions, it can mean drought, such as in Indonesia and the Philippines which are both experiencing this phenomenon right now. In other locales, such as Chile, home of some of the driest of deserts in the world, wildflowers are in full bloom from high precipitation. Weather patterns will definitely be interesting in 2016.

elnino09So, while all of us should continue to act conservatively and use water wisely, we might also consider installing a rain barrel to catch some of that fresh water to use in irrigation. I’ve also planted a winter garden, using trenches for collecting rain to water the plants. It’s also a good idea to inspect your roof and make repairs now, before a serious storm hits. Clean up your yard, getting rid of leaves and other debris that might clog yard drains. Trim trees, taking off dead branches and weak limbs. Look at all of your trees and try to determine if a limb could break onto your roof, or that of a neighbor.

Secure furniture and umbrellas so they don’t end up in the neighbor’s yard. Make sure you have extra supplies of prescriptions, infant diapers and formula, pet food, water. Gather your important documents and have them in a box that is handy in case you need to evacuate. Have first-aid supplies, and if you are not trained in first aid, buy a reference book to help you in an emergency.

elnino05If you need to leave your home for any reason, your family members should each have a sleeping bag, a blanket, a change of clothing and shoes. This can be packed and placed into a closet so you can grab it easily when you are running out the door. Include personal hygiene items in these packed cases, as well. Each family member should have a mess kit with matches. Choose a few light books and games to keep family members busy.

Large waves are another effect we might see during the El Nino Season. While this may cause major erosion along the beaches and perhaps damage some homes along the coast, you can bet surfers will be out there looking for the perfect wave. We’ve already seen some great runs of swells along our coast.

So what should we expect? NOAA says that the South will be cooler than average, the North will be warmer. The South will be wetter than average, and the North will be below average.

elnino17California should see some drought relief from storms. There will be increased precipitation in California. We will see fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic and less tornado activity. We might see more typhoons in the Pacific, and much of the U.S. could experience a milder winter. And lastly, we don’t know when or where, but it could get ugly.

One needs only to read about 1938 in the history books to see what lots of rain can do. I am a hiker, and I love to hike to a bridge called the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Prior to the floods of 1938, a road was being built from Azusa to Palmdale through the Angeles National Forest. A bridge was built over the river at 125 feet high. Then, one stormy day, the area received 14 inches of rain in one hour. The canyons filled with rushing water. The height of the water was 100 feet. Cabins were torn out of the canyon, the road that led to the “Bridge to Nowhere” was torn out, and the canyon walls were scoured.

Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere

Azusa was partially destroyed from the water and debris coming out of the canyon. The only thing that remained was the bridge, dangling among the rocks with no hint of a road leading to it. The project was abandoned. The date on the bridge is 1935, when construction began.

If you like to hike, this is a wonderful seasonal hike. I suggest summer, as there are numerous water crossings. In winter, the crossings can be dangerous.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, calls this year’s El Nino “the Godzilla El Nino.” So, take note and prepare. FEMA suggests that we will have torrential rainfall and flooding. Have a plan and enjoy this Super El Nino.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

elnino10elnino14elnino11

 

 

Comment On This Story
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29 Comments

  1. More rain than on recent history??? That won’t be hard to beat.

  2. Mike Duryea Mike Duryea says:

    They said this about last winter, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Hurry and buy a cute umbrella. 😂

  4. Remember this well. San Francisquito Creek was like a raging river and people were parked on Decoro (before it went through) watching in disbelief. Went to walk on this bike path and it was gone. How soon we forget how much it can rain here!

    • Lived up San Fran in the ’80s. Multiple road wash outs and landslides. No one dared drive it at night unless they had a death wish or were driving super slow with fog lights so drivers could make sure there was road under them. One of the farm moms drove her kids through the river to the bus stop in the scoop of their big tractor. Now that was pure genius.

  5. Why hasn’t anything happened and why is it hot outside

  6. Rosie Romero Rosie Romero says:

    Im tire of hearing rain is heading our way :O oooh please let it rain!!!!!

  7. Shawn Feller Shawn Feller says:

    I remember 1985 when the Santa Clara river overflowed, taking out parts of Soleded Cyn. and some trailer homes.

  8. Keoki Keoki Keoki Keoki says:

    And the illegal trailer park on Newhall and Sierra, in Newhall. A bridge was built over the wash to let them out during the big storm many years ago when they were trapped

  9. It’s started already. Those of us who live in mountains got hit with 3.34 inches of rain in late July in 24 hours. I had 85 cubic feet of mud, rocks and trees deposited in my yard and in house. Took 8 ten wheeler to get all debris from my yard. Not to mention 28k to reinforce everything. I would not take this warning lightly.

    • Yeah it’s started. A lot of people in the AV recently had 6 feet of mud flow through neighborhoods

    • People don’t realize that the AV gets hit hard with mudslides & floods, the excess washout heads south west into Santa Clarita and so forth into LA. Best thing to do is stock up on sandbags and create a wall protecting entry points to your house/property. Should be able to get a bunch from local fire departments.

  10. I remember an El Niño in the late 70s, early 80s that took out the railroad tracks that went from San Fernando Road to Magic Mountain Parkway.
    The Santa Clarita river bed was over overflowing onto Soledad Canyon.

  11. So far temp in the 80’s and it did mist at my house once

  12. Silvie Faust Silvie Faust says:

    You guys been saying it’s coming..but no rain at all in Santa SCVTV Santa Clarita

  13. Dave Hilton Dave Hilton says:

    So we will get three inches instead of one. But hey Santa Clarita, keep building

  14. Javi says:

    Maybe we sill.see some action at the Polynesian Mobile Home Park again….😊

  15. With no rain our hills are sliding 😰 🌩🌪💨⛈⛈⛈🌧🌧☔️

  16. Sorry i have to post this 😆

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