FEMA preps agencies for El Nino response

- Forecasters predict the weather phenomenon known as El Nino to arrive in the early part of next year, which is why local, state and federal emergency responders are training now.

An drill is being coordinated by FEMA in San Francisco Wednesday.

The drill will include representatives from California, Nevada and Arizona.

The representatives will meet and run through an exercise, in which they manage weather-related emergencies.

Todd Morris with the National Weather Service said all predictions show this El Nino could be one of the strongest events in recorded history. He said November 2015 saw the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly in the Pacific Ocean going back to the beginning of the dataset in 1950. The previous high was in Nov. 1997.

"We are fast approaching this event being as strong or stronger than 1997," Morris said.
FEMA Region IX Administrator Robert Fenton said by looking at historical data, they plan to be ready.

The idea of the exercise is to make everyone understand the potential threat, coordinating response, and developing efficient ways in providing care to flood and other disaster victims.

During the drill, FEMA and others will discuss topics including flooding, mudslides and public health concerns.

Mark Ghilarducci with California's Office of Emergency Services said they are anticipating the potential for flooding, landslides and mudslides. The drought has made the ground so dry, it could be like water hitting glass instead of getting absorbed into the soil.

"The land is very, very hard and we are very concerned about flash floods and localized flooding in many of our communities and in the burn scar areas," Ghilarducci said. "We had some catastrophic fires this summer."

Sandbags are available for residents in San Francisco.

Even if El Nino does bring heavy rain, it still won't be enough to cure California's drought. Morris said it would take several good years of precipitation to get some relief.


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