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San Diego County Prepares For Floods Ahead Of El Niño

Photo credit: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mud and water flow across Highway 78 in San Diego County.

The torrential rains and devastating mudflows that struck last week north of Los Angeles could be a harbinger of El Niño’s coming wrath in San Diego County, emergency officials warned.

The torrential rains and devastating mudflows that struck last week north of Los Angeles could be a harbinger of El Niño’s coming wrath in San Diego County, emergency officials warned.

On Friday, nearly 200 drivers became trapped on California 58 in up to 20 feet of mud and debris, triggered by flash flooding.

A similar scenario could happen in San Diego County, forecasters have warned — especially within the 22,000 acres that burned in the May 2014 wildfires.

“If we get heavy rainfall affecting those burn areas, we could be looking at debris flows, significant debris flows at times,” said Rand Allan, associate meteorologist with the San Diego County Flood Control District.

Web Cams For Monitoring Flood-Prone Regions

Quarry Road Webcam

Sandia Creek Road Webcam

Country Club Road Webcam

Allan and his crew are preparing for El Nino’s predicted downpours by clearing flood channels, cleaning storm drains and repairing dams. As storms roll in, they'll be keeping a close watch on the burn areas, particularly where the Poinsettia fire occurred in Carlsbad and the Cocos fire in San Marcos. The flood control district also will be monitoring bridges, low-water crossings and rivers using a system of 120 automated weather monitors and webcams.

"We have a network of automated rain gauges, weather stations, stream gauges, lake level stations in the county,” Allan said. “This information arrives in real time during storm events.”

The system sounds an alarm and sends an automated text to his team when flooding occurs, Allan said.

Flooding is anticipated this winter at low-water crossings in Fashion Valley in San Diego, Quarry Road in Spring Valley, Sandia Creek Road near Fallbrook and Country Club Road in Harmony Grove, Allan said. Each has a live webcam for monitoring during storms.

The developing El Niño in the Equatorial Pacific is now the strongest on record as water temperatures have reached nearly 6 degrees Fahrenheit above average.

In San Diego, a strong El Niño is correlated with above average rainfall of 20-30 percent or more.

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