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Carlsbad continues to brace for El Niño

CARLSBAD — As the storm season approaches, the city is stepping up its preparation for possible significant rains due to a potentially strong El Niño weather pattern.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting at its Faraday facility, Alex Tardy of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration reported the agency’s efforts of tracking El Niño.

“This El Niño is at a magnitude never seen before,” he said. “We’ve never seen temperatures this warm in the Pacific Ocean.”

He explained El Niño is not related to rain, but rather it pushes the jet stream down to Southern California from the Pacific Northwest, and the warm ocean waters create the storms.

Tardy said readings show temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have increased by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

He also detailed the epic drought, saying the lack of precipitation over the past four years has equated to Southern California essentially missing two winters, or rainy seasons. In addition, the drought was exacerbated by an astoundingly low and record-breaking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which total just 5 percent of normal last winter.

“Basically, we didn’t have two winters,” Tardy said.

While El Niño and its possible massive rains are welcome to ease the drought, city officials have been hard at work in identifying flood plains, cleaning sewer systems, trimming tree branches and a host of other work.

Pat Thomas, the city’s Public Works director, said risk assessments have and are being conducted. He said a focus is on the 2014 Poinsettia Fire burn area, while officials are using the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) 100-year flood plan maps.

Also, the city has its eyes on construction and development areas where flooding and mudslides may be a possibility. One area Thomas pointed to was construction between Tamarack Avenue and Chestnut Street.

Other areas receiving attention, Thomas said, are the Buena Vista and Agua Hedionda lagoons, the La Costa neighborhood, drainage from El Camino Real into Agua Hedionda and Carlsbad Boulevard and possible flooding from high tides.

“There is a history of flooding with the steep slopes,” Thomas said of the La Costa neighborhood.

Craddock Stropes of the Public Works Department and Fire Chief Mike Davis also reported to the council on various efforts.

Stropes said cleaning and inspection efforts for storm drains will be completed by the end of the year, while the city is also working with private construction and development projects to adjust timelines if needed.

She added the city has on-call contractors for heavy equipment to remove debris, erosion control, hazardous materials and support personnel.

As for residents, free sandbags and sandless sandbags are available. Stropes said the city currently has about five to 10 cars per day picking up bags.

Davis, meanwhile, said the city has engaged in erosion efforts including alerting private property owners to areas of concern.

“We are ensuring all staff in all departments are trained,” Stropes said. “We are also coordinating with the county.”

Other tips provided by the city before a storm include: keeping sandbags and emergency building materials on hand, clearing debris from all roof drains, gutters, downspouts and yard drains, trim trees, have a familiar route to high ground, make an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries and water, secure lawn furniture and place trash cans two feet from the curb on pickup day.

During a storm, tips include: never cross a flowing stream, anticipate traffic delays and road closures, drive slowly, obey road barricades and if advised to evacuate, move immediately to a safe area.

Sandbag pick-up points

Carlsbad residents can pick up sandbags at three locations in the city. The locations are at the city of Carlsbad Streets Division, 405 Oak Ave. (8 a.m.-4 p.m.), the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, 5950 El Camino Real (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Fire Station No. 5, 2540 Orion Way (open 24 hours).

A limited number of bags are available at the water district and fire station, while up to 10 prefilled bags per resident are available at the streets division.

For information about sandbag availability, call (760) 434-2980. For information about preparing for El Nino, visit To report flooding, call (760) 931-2197 (open 24 hours per day) or 9-1-1 for immediate threats.