By Allison Jarrell

In the latest chapter of Orange County’s El Niño preparation, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Fire Authority and Orange County Public Works released information this week regarding preparing for the incoming winter rains.

The latest forecasts show El Niño will likely peak and bring rain to the area this winter, possibly beginning in January. According to a Nov. 12 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, “the forecaster consensus remains nearly unchanged, with the expectation that this El Niño could rank among the top three strongest episodes … going back to 1950.”

“Since we are in an El Niño year, forecasters are predicting heavy rains in our area for the winter and spring months,” Orange County law enforcement officials said in Tuesday’s release. “In particular, Orange County residents should be prepared for flooding, and also for flash flooding that can occur suddenly due to heavy rainfall in a short period of time.”

Local agencies are encouraging residents to ready themselves for the winter deluge by preparing disaster kits; having an evacuation plan; having a family communication plan; making sure valuables, documents and medicines are accessible; ensuring a car is ready to go with at least a half tank of gas and signing up for AlertOC at www.alertoc.com and OCFA texts at https://ocfa.bbcportal.com.

Other preparations listed include inspecting roofs for leaks and having them repaired, inspecting and cleaning out all gutters and drains, applying netting and straw mulch on steep slopes and having sandbags, plywood or plastic sheeting to direct storm flow away from homes. The release also includes vital information on what to do during a flood and an evacuation.

Sand and empty sandbags are available now at most OCFA stations and many city yards. Residents are encouraged to bring their own shovels. To view the full El Niño release and list of OCFA stations with sandbags, visit www.bit.ly/1RkkWgu. For more information and updates, follow @OCFA_PIO, @OCSD and @OCpublicworks on Twitter.

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