El Niño set to drench California

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
California, namely the Central Coast, is known for its susceptibility to intense and prolonged droughts. These rain-starved areas seek nutrition through precipitation on a daily basis. Fortunately, these lands may soon receive the water they so desperately crave.

The stage is beginning to set for the seasonal phenomenon known as El Niño, which will cause an unusually wet winter in California and bring heavy rains throughout the region as early as January.

"El Niño is a warm temperature anomaly pattern primarily located across the equatorial Pacific Ocean," said Tyler Brock, 30th Operations Support Squadron. "The entire cycle known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation encompasses the sea surface temperature and deeper thermocline anomalies alongside an atmospheric pressure pattern. The ENSO cycle causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall."

In the past, Mother Nature has graced Vandenberg with copious amounts of showers during El Niño which, at its peak, produces the most rain from January through March.

"Typically, January through March are the heaviest rainfall months during stronger El Nino cycles," said Brock. "Vandenberg saw 20.9 inches in those three months in 1983 and 23.1 inches in 1998, which is an astonishing amount of rain compared to our 14-inch annual mean measured at the airfield."

With the largest recording of rainfall predicted from El Niño this year, safety precautions are at an all-time high for members of Team V.

"Don't procrastinate when it comes to preparing for El Niño, get it done," said Mark Stortecky, 30th Space Wing occupational safety and health specialist. "One thing the Federal Emergency Management Agency has touched on already is to make sure people get flood insurance. In some cases, it takes up to 30 days for that insurance to kick in, so now is the time to apply and cover yourself."

Additionally, there are many more preventative measures to be applied to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them.

"Keep several gallons of water on hand, along with a lot of non-perishable food," said Stortecky. "Be sure to have your cell phone and a charger with you at all times. Keep your car fully fueled in case of an emergency that would require you driving a long distance, as well as checking your tires and the other essentials of your vehicle in advance. If your property is low lying or is impacted by high runoff volumes, know where to find sandbags and other emergency provisions. If you're driving through inclement weather, drive slow and stay vigilant. Same with anyone who gets caught having to walk through inclement weather, stay vigilant and watch your step while walking."

Although California will finally receive some much needed rainfall to combat the current drought, it is imperative for Vandenberg personnel to remain safe and secure throughout the duration of El Niño.

"Be cautious wherever you go," said Brock. "While we need the rainfall, there are plenty of hazards that can be exposed during heavy rainfall winters following years of extreme drought. Check the weather every day before you do anything and make sure you have a plan in place."