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What is El Niño?

El Niño is an unusually strong band of warm water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. That warm water has the potential for creating unusual weather patterns in the San Diego region and along the entire west coast during the fall and winter. For the City of San Diego, that means a greater likelihood for more and longer rain storms.

Getting prepared for El Niño is a team effort. City crews are working hard to prepare storm drains, roadways and City facilities for what may become a very wet winter. This effort also requires help from San Diego residents and businesses.

Before it Rains

  • Report blocked storm drains by calling (619) 235-1000 or by submitting an online storm water service request with the City's Transportation & Storm Water Department.
  • Sign up for Alert San Diego notifications for all your telephone numbers.
  • Create a family communication plan to stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Prepare your pets for El Niño. Have transportation ready for all larger animals under your responsibility.
  • If needed, visit your local fire station for free sand bags. The limit is 10 bags per resident, and sand is not provided.
  • Prepare your home for an emergency.
  • Visit the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to find your official flood map, access a range of other flood hazard products, and take advantage of tools for better understanding flood risks.
  • Know the safest routes to and from home should flooding occur.
  • Prepare your small business for an emergency.
  • When placing your trash, yard, and recycle bins out on the street for collection, place each bin approximately two to three feet away from the curb, so they do not impede the storm water flowing on the street.
  • Sweep up trash, sediment, and debris, and dispose of construction waste in the trash to avoid having these items enter and block the storm water collection system.

When Rains Arrive

  • Report flooding to the City's emergency dispatch center at (619) 527-7500
  • For life threatening emergencies call 911.
  • Report downed electrical lines or gas emergencies to San Diego Gas & Electric at (800) 411-7343.
  • Leave early if your property is in a flood zone. Water levels can rise fast once storms start. Do not hesitate to move if you see rising water.
  • Follow all instructions issued by public safety personnel.
  • Drive carefully! Take your time getting home or to work.
  • Slow down and do not drive through standing water. Know a safe route out (PDF). Folleto en Español (PDF).

After Rains Pass

Important Online Resources to Keep You Prepared

  • Ready San Diego - A resource website for emergency preparedness in San Diego County.
  • Ready (Federal) - A federal campaign that educates and empowers Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, such as natural and man-made disasters.
  • Flood Preparedness - A California Department of Water Resources page to help residents prepare for El Niño.
  • California Office of Emergency Services - A State of California website that provides information on potential natural hazards that may exist in your area, such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and tsunamis.

Important Online Resources to Keep You Safe

Weather Information Resources

WATCH: Preparing for El Niño

Featured Videos

  • El Niño and Why We Can't Predict the Weather - This video produced by PBS Digital Studios is an entertaining look at just what El Niño is.
  • Scripps Presentation - This is a video of an October 7, 2015 Scripps Institute of Oceanography presentation to the City's Environment Committee. The presentation provides the latest projections and a summary of patterns for El Niño.
  • El Niño and Winter Outlook Briefing - Published on Nov. 16, 2015 by the National Weather Service's Weather Forecast Office in San Diego, this 10-minute video weather briefing provides an update on the El Niño warm water conditions in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Preparing Your Pets for El Niño - This short video provides information to help prepare pets for emergencies and El Niño.

The video shows the most important tools you can use to prepare yourself for the El Niño rains anticipated this winter.