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Preparing for what winter might bring

By Mike Wood

Staff writer


Friday, December 8 (9:30 a.m.): Wet weather and colder temperatures are here. Being prepared for what might be ahead is important, especially given last winter’s onslaught of heavy rains, pockets of flooding and tumultuous winds.

The National Weather Service’s latest Seasonal Precipitation Outlook, issued Nov. 16, shows a 40% to 50% probability that most of California – including the entire Bay Area – receives above average precipitation from December through January.

These outlooks, of course, factor in historical data, and the strong El Niño experienced last season plays a big role in this one, said Dalton Behringer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Bay Area.

Looking at this December, Behringer said that after a wet weather pattern for the region that is progressive through the middle of the month, there could be heavier storms in the latter half. While a repeat of the lengthy series of atmospheric river after atmospheric river is not likely, there could be strong systems on the horizon.

“Prepare like it’s any other winter but prepare with the knowledge of knowing what happened last year,” Behringer said.

Last winter’s severe weather was relentless, from the time a major storm hit on New Year’s Eve that dropped 5.5 inches of rain on the area over a 12-hour span until well into March. During that time, there were countless instances of downed trees, leaves and debris that clogged gutters and drainage that caused flooding in entries, and mudslides that caused significant damage to two holes on Dollar Ranch Golf Course. The uniqueness and severity of weather incidents alarmed even those who specialize in preparedness.

“Atmospheric rivers storms, until a year ago, were nowhere in my vocabulary,” said Fran Gibson, president emeritus of the Rossmoor Emergency Preparedness Organization. Gibson is a daily reader of climate change blogs and is quite concerned to read predictions that atmospheric rivers could well grow to spans of 100 to 150 miles wide.

When it comes to preparedness, the EPO website is a fountain of valuable information. Its resident resources emergency planning page at features all kinds of detailed information, from numerous links with Rossmoor-specific information, tips for those with special needs and medical conditions, fall prevention, tips for pet owners, emergency supplies information, PG&E links, emergency alert systems and apps, and a lengthy list of agency and other emergency phone numbers.

Gibson there’s been some uptick on clicks to certain links and EPO-related YouTube videos, particularly views of a Nov. 6 presentation by Noell Crosse, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District fire education coordinator.

Colder temperatures mean staying indoors more, and home fires appreciably increased in January and February, she said. Unattended cooking presents a major hazard, so it’s vital to be attentive to cooking and in usage of space heaters and candles, including those used for religious customs and celebrations.

PG&E’s storm safety recommendations found at urge usage of LED candles in cases of outages, and that wax candles are not recommended when power is out.

Gibson offers these precautions for older adults to be safe during the winter, as noted on the website. For one, space heaters should be at least 3 feet away from anything that could catch fire, including curtains, bedding and furniture.

To avoid falls in wintertime, make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk, especially wet pavement that could be iced over; wear boots with non-skid soles; those using canes should replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth.

That site also advises seniors to “winterize” their cars ahead of storm season: have antifreeze, tires and windshield wipers checked and replaced if necessary. In addition, seniors should always take their cellphone when driving in bad weather and inform someone of where they are going and when they expect to be back.