<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego News - [San Diego] El Niño in San Diego]]>Copyright 2019http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/localen-usWed, 18 Sep 2019 15:20:35 -0700Wed, 18 Sep 2019 15:20:35 -0700NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Fewer Rattlesnakes During El Niño?]]>374325821Fri, 01 Apr 2016 18:02:44 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Rattlesnake-Sign-Garske.JPG

El Niño storms are not only good for California’s drought – they may also be the reason for fewer brushes with rattlesnakes across San Diego County.

According to Daniel E. DeSousa, deputy director for the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, the rainy season has led to a decrease in local rattlesnake sightings reported to Animal Services – even in rattlesnake hotspots like Tierrasanta.

DeSousa said rattlesnake calls are down this season: 162 calls compared to 219 at this same time in 2015.

Last year, DeSousa said Animal Services received nine rattlesnake calls in January, 36 in February and 174 in March. This year, Animal Services received eight rattlesnake calls in January, 53 in February and 101 in March.

With San Diego’s climate, DeSousa said there isn’t necessarily a defined “rattlesnake season.” They do tend to hibernate in the fall and winter and awaken in the spring months of March and April.

“Rattlesnakes can actually be found in San Diego County year-round,” DeSousa explained. “We have this wonderful, mild climate, but springtime – ‘tis the season.”

The critters tend to come out when it’s very warm, so DeSousa said San Diego’s recent milder weather is likely linked to the decrease in sightings.

“Most like it’s because of the weather we’ve had,” he said. “February of this year we saw more rattlesnake calls than last year. February of this year was really warm. March has been kind of a cooler month – little bit wetter [of a] month – so maybe they’re not coming out as much.

But just because the rattlesnake calls are down now, doesn’t mean the critters aren’t a threat.

“They’re very much related to the weather and their food source,” DeSousa said.

Southern California is home to several species of rattlesnakes, including the Western Diamondback, Red Diamond, Southern Pacific, Speckled and Sidewinder. Rattlesnakes can be found in every habitat in San Diego County, from coastal communities to inland and desert regions.

“I would still expect, unfortunately, a bumper crop of rattlesnakes to be coming out and springtime is the season when we’ll start seeing the babies out and when we’ll start seeing more and more rattlesnakes just throughout the county,” DeSousa said. “They’re just hunkered underground at this point in time. When it gets warm and starts drying out we will see them.”

When that happens, DeSousa said residents should call Animal Services to report sightings.

According to Animal Services, the simplest way to identify a rattlesnake is by seeing or hearing the critter’s traditional rattle hiss or buzz.

Rattlesnakes can lose their rattles, however, so some identifying marks are also important, including a wide, rectangular head, a distinctly thin neck regions and long, pointed tails. Rattlesnakes can be a variety of colors, including brown, tan, yellow, green, gray, black, chalky white and dull red. Many could have diamond, chevron or blotched markings on their backs or sides.

DeSousa said San Diegans can take several precautions to keep rattlesnakes away from their homes, including trimming overgrown plants and clearing brush.

“[A rattlesnake] is there for a reason. It’s there because there’s a good food source – namely mice or rats. Or it’s there because it’s a really good hiding spot under the bushes or in a debris pile in your yard,” he said.

For more tips on what to do if you encounter a rattlesnake, read this brochure from Animal Services.

Photo Credit: Monica Garske]]>
<![CDATA[El Nino’s Impact on San Diego’s Coast]]>372072582Tue, 15 Mar 2016 08:33:32 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/waves14.JPG

Local scientists say this year’s El Nino is having a big impact on San Diego’s coastline, and they need the public’s help keeping track of it.

Although there hasn't been a massive amount of rain, local researchers say people have to think about the waves and the impact they're having on the coastline, beaches and estuaries.

Researchers with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System say that amid El Nino conditions the waves have been bigger than usual and may even be affecting human health.

A big challenge ahead of them is translating their research to decision makers, like city and county leaders, which they say will take time.

They’re also reaching out to the public because they say they need the public's help to keep an eye on these coastal changes.

“Citizens can take photographs of the coastline and we're actually asking for photos from both low tide and high tide because we want to get those flooding events,” Sarah Giddings, assistant professor of oceanography at UC San Diego told NBC 7.

People who want to help out can look up two programs called Urban Tide Initiative and Storm Photo.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Cloud Seeding Used in This Week's Storm]]>371553561Wed, 09 Mar 2016 13:43:25 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/167*120/La+Jolla+Cove+0118.jpg

Our neighbors just north have taken the need for rain into their own hands.

This past Monday, Los Angeles County skies were seeded for the first time since 2002 as El Nino hit the coast.

Clouds above Los Angeles could produce 15 percent more rain as a result of seeding, the county estimated.

But what is seeding?

Cloud seeding is the use of silver iodide, which is purposefully sprayed into the sky from airplanes. Some believe the introduction of these particulars increases and expedites rainfall in seeded areas.

However, scientists are not as certain.

“There’s no scientist who actually thinks that cloud seeding works,” Lynn Russell, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Scripps Institute, explained in a previous interview.

Studies have not been able to find a statistical significant difference between seeded cloud’s rain production and cloud’s that were not seeded, according to Russell.

Unlike Los Angeles, San Diego did not try this technique while El Nino was in town. San Diego skies are too dry and lack even the smallest bit of water so seeding may be useless.

While there are no known environmental dangers of cloud seeding, Russell urges that any prolonged alteration to the environment can be harmful.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[County, City Struggle With Storm Drains Amid El Nino ]]>370871891Wed, 02 Mar 2016 21:58:55 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/clogged+storm+drain.JPG

During the January storms, the McGuire family watched as a mung-hued sludge bubbled onto their property, slowly turning their tennis court into a lake.

It’s a problem homeowner Don McGuire says he’s noticed for years.

“It comes down through the valley. It comes right here in front of my property, and then starts filling up at the corner of my tennis court,” McGuire described. “It starts overflowing onto my property.”

Residents near the clogged storm water culvert at El Camino Real and Rancho del Madison say the storm inlet hasn’t been cleared in years. Data obtained by NBC 7 from San Diego County appears to confirm their observation.

With more heavy winter rains on the way, homeowners in the area are concerned.

“Nobody comes to clean it up, so it’s really a problem and it’s going to be an even bigger problem when it starts flooding,” said neighbor Pam Farb.

NBC 7 reviewed data provided by the County of San Diego of some 2,500 culverts and found hundreds of inlets listed as needing repair and cleaning. Many of those storm pipes in the Rancho Santa Fe area have been listed as needing service for years.

Meantime, the City of San Diego has more than 20 storm inlets and pipes red flagged as urgently in need of repair or cleaning or both, an effort city consultants estimate will cost more than $500,000. Almost all of those drains are corrugated metal piping like the one that badly damaged several homes in Cabaret block of San Carlos last fall.

A city spokesman said thanks to concerns about El Nino, the Storm Water Department has been able to get more work done in the last few months than in perhaps the past decade.

In response to NBC 7 questions about the inlet at El Camino Real and Rancho del Madison near Rancho Santa Fe, a county crew went out and inspected the area. A county spokeswoman said the inlet would be cleaned up by Friday.

“While our crews maintain nearly 19,000 inlets every year, it is possible for growth or debris to block those facilities in between scheduled maintenance,” Alex Bell, a county communications officer, wrote in an email to NBC 7.

Bell said the county wants to encourage the public to contact the county and report blocked storm drain channels and culverts.

“The sooner we are made aware of an issue, the sooner we can get out there to fix it,” she wrote.

Residents can call (877) 684-8000 during business hours or (858) 565-5262 any time to report issues in the unincorporated county. There is also an online form available.

<![CDATA[Hospital's Storm-Damaged Stork Baby Back at Perch]]>369453472Fri, 19 Feb 2016 19:17:34 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sharp-Mary-Birch-Stork-0219.jpg

It’s a…baby! The baby doll that dangles from the beak of an iconic stork sculpture perched on the rooftop of a San Diego hospital was carefully replaced Friday morning after it was blown away by strong winds during a recent El Niño storm.

The baby – wearing a cozy cap and tucked into a pink and blue blanket – has been returned to its rightful perch alongside the big white stork that decorates the corner of the parking garage structure at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns at 3003 Health Center Dr. Together, the famous stork and baby overlook State Route 163 and are a San Diego landmark that is hard to miss.

During a gusty storm on Jan. 31, the wind was so strong the baby was blown out of the blanket, landing on the ground on the rooftop level of the parking garage.

The following day, Theresa Kvederis, a longtime Sharp Mary Birch employee with the admitting and patient registration department, was parking in the garage for her shift when she noticed something odd lying on the ground.

At first, she thought someone had accidentally left something behind. But when she took a closer look, she was met with a tiny, adorable surprise.

She glanced at the childless stork sculpture in the lot and her suspicions were confirmed: it was the stork's baby doll.

“[I thought], ‘Oh yeah, that’s our baby from the stork. Oh my gosh, that poor baby got blown out of its blankie in the storm!’” Kvederis told NBC 7.

Kvederis said she walked over to the doll, picked it up and brushed it off.

“It’s a pretty big baby,” she said, with a laugh. “It looks more like an 8-month-old. It was pretty cute.”

She then took it to security guards at the hospital for safekeeping.

“I told them, ‘The stork delivered a baby.’ We were all laughing. It was a cute story all day long,” she added.

Kvederis later learned the doll’s blanket had also been found, blown away in another direction in the parking lot.

Rosalina Famania, marketing and communications specialist for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital, told NBC 7 the doll – known affectionately by staffers as “Stork Baby” – has been replaced more than once over the years, but never due to high winds or strong storms.

Like many San Diegans, Kvederis said she considers the stork and Stork Baby a great symbol and “focal point” for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital. She said the giant stork often helps staffers give patients easier directions to the hospital. She herself tells patients to just “pull into the garage with the stork on it.”

The stork sculpture, which is made of an iron frame and fiberglass, was a gift from the City of Sierra Madre, given to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in 1960 after it appeared in the Tournament of Roses parade. The stork was originally the centerpiece of a float fittingly titled “The Birds and the Bees.”

Since then, as the sculpture’s dedication plaque notes, “The stork has welcomed new mothers and babies at Sharp – and is a beloved San Diego landmark.”

On Friday, after undoing some cleaning and repairs, the stork and the baby doll were returned to their home on the rooftop level of the hospital’s parking structure.

A crew of about a dozen Sharp Health Care engineering staffers worked together to hoist the stork back up to its upright position. Stork Baby was gingerly placed inside a blanket created by hospital staffers and that blanket was then hooked onto the beak of the stork.

Famania said staffers ensured Stork Baby was securely tucked inside the blanket with Velcro, should there be any more wind storms. She said hospital doesn’t consider the baby doll to be a specific gender because “it’s a representative of all babies at the hospital.”

After being hung with care, the doll and its blanket gently swayed in the mild wind as the stork looked on, as it always does, at commuters on the freeway. What a birth story.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Unprecedented El Nino Study Uses Balloons, Aircraft]]>369170501Thu, 18 Feb 2016 02:35:30 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/160216-N-PA426-005.JPG

Researchers launched weather balloons Tuesday off the coast of Hawaii in an unprecedented effort to discover how El Nino affects weather forecasts thousands of miles away.

Craig McLean, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Research, explained how the project hopes to collect data from the Pacific Ocean using a research plane, a NOAA ship and drones.

"This research will help us understand the first link in the chain that produces, among many other weather impacts, extreme precipitation events on the West Coast," McLean said in a prepared news release.

Eight times a day, weather balloons will be launched from the deck of the Ronald H. Brown as it sails from Honolulu to San Diego. It’s expected to arrive here on March 18.

The data collected by weather balloons like the ones launched Tuesday will be pulled along with data from instruments dropped from aircraft, researchers said.

All of that data will hopefully improve weather models used by forecasters with the National Weather Service.

"This has never been done with a major El Nino," said Randall Dole, a senior scientist with NOAA's Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Meranda Keller]]>
<![CDATA[FEMA: Californians Buy Record Number of Flood Policies]]>369004781Tue, 16 Feb 2016 18:22:58 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/060311+flood+insurance.jpg

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports a large increase in the number of flood insurance policies purchased in California in response to a rainy El Nino winter.

FEMA officials say that insurers have written more than 55,000 policies since August, translating into a 25 percent increase.

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Simms chalks up the uptick to greater awareness of El Nino, a weather pattern that's bringing much needed rain to drought-parched California. She says the agency has not seen upticks in other states, even in Western states also affected by El Nino.

Agency officials say they haven't seen this kind of an increase since the National Flood Insurance Program was created by Congress in 1968 to offer flood insurance to homeowners, tenants and business owners through private insurers.

A strong high pressure system is currently blocking Southern California from rainy conditions. Still, several San Diego residents told NBC 7 they would opt for flood insurance, considering the strong January storm.

"Yes, I will be looking into it," Clairemont resident Kory Hickman said. "Probably sometime this coming week because we just talked about it."

Another San Diegan, Nancy Croisant of Pacific Beach, said it's not too costly if you consider the expenses of flood damage.

"I have had it on two different properties. I had one in Mission Beach and it was super expensive," she said. "And I have some in Imperial Beach and it's not that expensive. So I think it's probably a good thing with El Nino."

While San Diego has seen a dry period recently, the Climate Prediction Center reports that we're still under a strong El Nino. During previous El Nino years, storms lasted to April.

In previous years, San Diego saw similar dry spells.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Scientists Show Effects of El Nino on SoCal Beaches]]>368553571Thu, 11 Feb 2016 19:28:46 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/San+diego+coast.jpg

The military is funding a coastline study to help determine how El Nino and climate change could impact its facilities and bases close to the ocean.

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are using flights across the coast to take precise measurements of beach topography that may explain El Nino’s possible effects on local beaches and cliffs. The study is paid for by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Oceanographers Ken Melville and Luc Lenain are leading the aircraft-based project, using an imaging suite called Modular Aerial Sensing System (MASS), according to Scripps.

Melville said they had to speed up funding because the beaches were already changing. The oceanographers found sea levels along the Southern California coast are up to nine inches higher than historical averages.

In the midst of one of the strongest El Nino seasons in the past 60 years, the ONR and USACE are concerned with the possible consequences on how they design buildings on the coast, said the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“The Navy has a huge infrastructure at sea level and needs to understand the impact of storms and sea-level change not only in Southern California, but around the globe,” said Tom Drake, the director of Ocean, Atmosphere, and Space Research at ONR.

He said the new data will help them understand how El Nino is changing the shape of the Southern California coast and give insight on how to predict future change.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography said MASS uses a variety of tools to take beach topography measurements, including lidar, a laser technology that surveys distance by illuminating a specific target. With this laser technology combined with a GPS instrument and motion sensors, the oceanographers are able to scan the ocean in swaths of beach up to 600 meters wide.

According to Melville, the final product of collected data will explain how the sea level, storms and tides will affect beach and cliff topography during El Nino 2015-16. This will allow cities and states to adapt their management of coastal and urban infrastructure in response to higher sea levels in the upcoming decades.

“The Department of the Navy is keenly interested in understanding the potential effects of climate change and sea-level rise, and this coastal survey is a great example of the strategic partnerships that we contribute to and learn from to that end,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Karnig Ohannessian in a news release.

“The science informs key stakeholders in a whole-of-community approach to planning and adaptation, which ensures infrastructure resilience and enhances the Navy's mission readiness.”

Melville believes these types of measurements should be conducted on a regular basis to track the health of local beaches.

However, El Nino is not the only influence on rising sea levels, said the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. There's also an unusual pool of warm upper-ocean water dubbed "the Blob," which has been around in the West Coast since 2014. The combination of the Blob and El Nino have further strengthened the rising sea levels, amid a continuing pattern of increasing eastern Pacific temperatures.

Photo Credit: Scripps Institute of Oceanography ]]>
<![CDATA[$689K Grant to Protect Coastline From El Nino Storms]]>368187541Tue, 09 Feb 2016 13:03:49 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/San-Diego-Pier-Coastline_06.jpg

Photo Credit: Jim Grant]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Recalls Teen's Rescue from Storm-Swollen Creek]]>367837421Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:09:01 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/creek-rescue-north-county-020516.jpg

Three San Diego County teenagers drove into a raging creek this weekend for fun and forced a massive rescue effort.

Becky Ripley couldn’t get a hold of her 17-year-old son, Ben, this past weekend. When she didn't get a response to her texts, she sent a text to one of her son's friends. That’s when she found out there was something very wrong.

The teen’s truck was in a creek and rescue teams were working tirelessly to save the kids.

“It wasn’t until a little later found out that they were sitting on a truck in the middle of a river. Freaked us out. We couldn’t imagine what was going on,” she said.

Thirty firefighters and swift water rescue team members were working. The cost of the rescue ran thousands of dollars.

It was a heart wrenching situation for Riley. She didn’t have any control and the process took hours.

Ben was with two friends who thought it would be fun to drive through a raging creek in Rancho Santa Fe. They never made it to the other side. The water took hold of the truck they were in and flipped it.

“They were fortunate enough to get pinned up against that tree and have enough time to get out of the window and climb out,” said Encinitas Lifeguards Capt. Larry Giles.

The teens managed to sit on top of the truck. It took two hours for rescuers to chainsaw through trees, get lines out and put all the measures in place for a safe rescue. All this time minutes felt like hours for Ripley.

“It was the most horrific feeling as a parent to know you have no control over the situation and I didn’t get all of the details until they were actually saved. Which was probably a good thing, found out how dangerous the situation was,” she said.

Now days later, Ripley is appreciative of the swift water teams and firefighters who rescued her son and his friends. She also hopes their story serves as a warning to anyone, not just teens.

The warning: don't drive through water, whether it’s in a creek or on a street, because it can be extremely dangerous.

<![CDATA[City of San Diego’s El Nino Response ]]>367741191Thu, 04 Feb 2016 21:18:11 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+channel+clearing+el+nino.PNG

As city crews race the El Nino clock, clearing the storm channels is an even bigger challenge now that the ground is saturated from prior rains.

In the Smythe Channel, a machine got stuck briefly in the mud Thursday.

As far as the storm channel clearing goes, residents told NBC 7 it’s about time.

“Finally,” said San Ysidro resident Dawn Rodriguez. “After more than 10 years. It looks a lot better.”

Rodriguez said her parents and other neighbors have been asking the city to clear it out for a decade.

“It’s all for the betterment of the neighborhood and avoiding floods,” said Jorge Negrete, a San Ysidro homeowner.

The Smythe Channel near the U.S. Mexico border is one of 13 channels the city identified as high-priority in November.

It took emergency permits to allow crews to work here.

In late November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a warning to the State Water Resources Control Board, which is involved in the lengthy and complicated permit process.

The letter said: “Failure to prepare immediately, in light of improved predictions and damage caused by the prior strong El Nino’s, would be unacceptable.”

The city’s Transportation and Storm Water Department has a $130 million annual budget, with approximately $45 million of that allocated to the storm water division.

According to a January city memo, the department estimates it will be about $8.4 million over budget because of the necessary El Nino response.

When asked why the work isn’t done on a more routine basis, a spokesman explained a single permit during a non-emergency can take up to 18 months for permission to clear one storm channel.

Homeowners say the growth in the canal is a nuisance.

“There were stoves and refrigerators and stuff in there. When it rains, it’s got a terrible smell,” Rodriguez said.

After being woken up by the sound of chainsaws earlier in the week, Negrete said he wishes the city had issued some type of notification to residents that the work would begin.

“Overall, it’s good that they’re clearing it out. I think it’s going to be better now,” he said.

<![CDATA[Illegal Contractors Caught Bidding on El Niño Jobs]]>367427141Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:00:56 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CSLB-Bust-3.jpg

In a recent sting, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) of California busted 15 contractors operating illegally in San Diego County – offering their unlicensed services to homeowners impacted by El Niño storms.

On Jan. 26 and Jan. 27, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a home in Tierrasanta to place bids for home improvement projects including replacing a leaking garage roof, installing new concrete with drains to prevent flooding, replacement of a wooden fence and other non-storm-related jobs.

Investigators chose the contractors based on prior complaints and by combing through ads on Craigslist and local newspapers.

The two-day sting resulted in 15 unlicensed contractors placing bids on the home improvement projects, ranging from $1,200 for re-roofing to $9,000 for concrete work.

According to the CSLB, a state contractor license is required for any bid over $500 for the total costs of labor and material.

The suspects were each given a misdemeanor citation for contracting without a license. Twelve suspects were also cited for a misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising. State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed, the CSLB said.

Investigators said three of the suspects were repeat offenders who were previously cited on illegal contracting charges during other similar CSLB stings.

One suspect, Breck D. Pemberton, was also found to have active warrants out for his arrest in Florida.

Investigators said Pemberton allegedly admitted to taking $9,700 for a job he never started. Currently, Pemberton is on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Wanted Persons list for larceny.

CSLB officials said one suspect, who was supposed to only place a bid for a kitchen remodel, noticed a tarp placed over the leaking roof of the Tierrasanta home and offered to fix that instead.

Investigators said this proves that many illegal contractors are taking this time – amid the strong, and in some cases, damaging El Niño storms – to “prey” on consumers as they prepare to safeguard their homes.

“We understand the sense of urgency consumers have to make sure their homes are protected from the rain and possible floods,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “But it’s very important to take the time to check the license first and find qualified licensed contractors for these types of home improvement jobs.”

Investigators said they also cited one of the 15 suspects, Carlos M. Soliz, of Wildomar, Calif., for charging an excessive down payment for a home improvement project. The law states a down payment can be no more than 10 percent of the total contract price or $1,000 – whichever is less.

The CSLB said the following San Diego-based contractors were busted in this operation:

• Daniel Flores Bernal (Bernal’s Concrete in Lemon Grove)
• Kiet T. Duong (Pro Fencing in San Diego)
• Timothy Lee Dye (of San Diego)
• Humberto Miguel (Elvira Home Repairs in San Diego)
• Santiago Jimenez (of Spring Valley)
• Joseph Eric Linn (of Escondido)
• Humberto Munoz (of San Diego)
• Breck Pemberton (of San Diego, wanted in Florida)
• Andrew Appleby (All American Hardwoods in San Diego)
• Arnulfo Castillo Garcia (of Escondido)
• Adan Rios-Hernandez (All American Hardwoods in San Diego)
• Randall Dean Houser (of Spring Valley)
• Pablo Rivas (SteelWorks in National City)
• Carlos M. Soliz (of Wildomar)
• David Quezada (of San Diego)

Officials said the suspects are scheduled to appear in San Diego County Superior Court on March 21, March 22 and March 23.

As El Niño conditions persist, the CSLB said this sting should serve as a warning to homeowners “to be cautious of unlicensed workers advertising for roof repairs and other flood prevention jobs.”

Photo Credit: Contractors State License Board]]>
<![CDATA[Should County or Residents Clear Fallen Tree?]]>367309691Tue, 02 Feb 2016 00:14:12 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/harbison+canyon+tree+2.JPG

Residents in the East County are furious that San Diego County will not remove a toppled tree blocking their neighborhood’s road.

Sunday’s fierce winds uprooted a huge tree and pushed it onto Silverbrook Drive in Harbison Canyon. Small cars are able to drive under it and people can walk around it, but the gap between the road and the tree will not fit vehicles like ambulances or fire engines.

Houses sit another quarter mile beyond the tree, and residents there have no other road to get out.

Homeowners began calling the county Monday to get the barrier removed. They were told the tree is on private property.

“Silverbrook Drive is partially a public road and segments where the asphalt ends, and it’s a privately owned road,” said Alex Bell, the county’s Public Works spokesperson.

“We are not able to use county funds or resources to maintain private facilities,” Bell added. “That would be up to people in the area, the homeowners.”

Mark Sandecki, one of the first Silverbrook residents to call, said that is not true.

He lost his home in the 2003 wildfires and had to undergo many property surveys. He said he knows where the property line is, and the land holding the tree has always belonged to the county.

“I’m boiling, but I’m trying not to because I don’t want to have a heart attack,” said Sandecki, who had major heart surgery two months ago.

When the tree came tumbling down, it landed on Sharie West’s car. She said county employees came, surveyed the area, “washed their hands and left,” telling the locals they needed to remove the tree themselves.

“It’s not privately owned,” said West. “It does not belong to us. It’s not deeded to us. We pay property taxes to maintain this road.”

She is worried for elderly neighbors, who live beyond the tree and could not be reached by emergency services if there is a need.

Bell told NBC 7 this sort of issue is fairly common in unincorporated areas of the county, where it’s “not as clear where the lines are.”

In the last couple of days, crews have received reports of more than 90 fallen trees needing removal across the county.

Photo Credit: Candice Nguyen]]>
<![CDATA[Fort Rosecrans Graves Damaged by Fallen Tree]]>367314941Mon, 01 Feb 2016 23:14:48 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fort+rosecrans+cemetery+downed+tree+0201+2016.jpg

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Munnerlyn, Fort Rosecrans Cemetery]]>
<![CDATA[High School Uses Science and Fish To Help Save Garden]]>367078901Sun, 31 Jan 2016 17:11:32 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Aquaponics+Patrick+Henry+HS.jpg

After California's historic drought almost forced students at a San Diego high school to abandon their school garden, they've come up with a sustainable solution that involves fish.

It's called aquaponics, and it's helping students at Patrick Henry High School keep their garden, despite water restrictions imposed because of the drought.

"Our students were unable to water our plants, so our vegetable garden was left abandoned," said Lara Dickens, an Environmental Science teacher at Patrick Henry.

But then the school teamed up with the local non-profit ECOLIFE Conservation. The ECOGarden Program uses the science of aquaponics: raising fish and plants in a recirculating ecosystem. The fish waste acts as a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. The organization says this uses 90 percent less water and land than traditional agricultural methods.

The students unveiled their new aquaponics garden this week.

"The once abandoned area was filled with passion and thrived with new life," said Aquaponics Educational Manager Kait Cole, "Students feel so moved by the project that they xeriscaped the garden beds and are building another aquaponics system next semester."

Several teachers and more than 100 Patrick Henry students have been involved in designing, engineering and building the school's aquaponics system.

"Because this was a student-led hands-on project, we were able to actually research some of these topics ourselves, like organic farming, like ecology, and actually make this project a reality," said Brenden Hawk.

Students have even created an Aquaponics Club.

"It's something that you can do anywhere and I just wanted to help share that with other people because sustainability relies on education to spread," said student Brianna Pinto.

Students and teachers say the project relates to many of their classes. Engineering students were involved with the mechanics, while biology students are interested in fish and plant cycles. There's even a connection the the high school's art classes.

"Because biology requires a lot of observations, I know we have the art teachers who want to come in and do drawings of the fish as the fish are developing and drawings of the plants," said Dickens.

"I feel like I finally got a chance to apply what I learned in school," said Jose Olea, "and because I'm a very hands-on learner, I feel like doing this gives me a great experience to learn every single detail about how it works and how to improve it in order to help others."

Senior Olivia Young is starting her own aquaponics garden in a University Heights as a way of providing fresh produce for low income families. 

Patrick Henry is the first of 15 schools to work with the non-profit on an aquaponics garden. The program is supported by the Kiwanis Club of San Diego, San Diego Kiwanis Club Foundation, and the Cox Cares Foundation. You can find out more about the non-profit at the organization's website.

Photo Credit: Patrick Henry High School]]>
<![CDATA[Downed Trees, Damaged Property as Storm Brings Strong Wind]]>367124411Sun, 31 Jan 2016 21:41:34 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SAN+DIEGO+FUTURE+RADAR+0131.jpg

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of central and north San Diego County as heavy rain, strong winds and thunderstorms move through San Diego Sunday. The warning comes during a highly anticipated El Nino-fueled storm system, the first substantial rainfall to hit San Diego since the start of the year. 

A rescue was underway just before 7 p.m. for a car that went into a creek in the Elfin Forest in Escondido North Comm said.

The strong winds and saturated ground have caused trees to fall across the county. In Pacific Beach, one person died after a giant tree fell onto four cars and crushed a pedestrian passing by. 

Damage from strong winds began early Sunday morning in Escondido as a downed tree blocked several lanes on Bernardo Lane. A family woke up to find an 80 to 100 foot Torrey Pine tree topped across their driveway.

The wind ripped out the tree's roots and a slab of concrete; the ripping sound and the fall prompted the family to come running out. 

"Constant thunder clap, like bababababa, and it was this thing coming down and it just missed everything," said Brett Drury, the homeowner.

In Midway, streets were blocked off due to downed power lines on Sports Arena Boulevard near Ollie Street. No injuries have been reported. 

If you see storm damage, call the City of San Diego's hotline at (619) 527-7500.

NBC 7 San Diego has received photos from the East County, one tree fell at Town Center Parkway in Santee.

A tree fell onto a family van, injuring a mother. The baby in the van was safe. Trees also fell at the Costco in Santee.

In Del Cerro, a tree fell on a house at Waring Road and Galewood. The owner said the tree has been there since the late 1960s.

A downed tree at Genessee and Calgary in UTC blocked the road as well, prompting police to divert traffic. 

A reported downed power line on El Camino Real near eastbound State Route 78 was causing a backup around 2:10 p.m. A caller said the pole snapped in half, pulling down another pole with it. 

At the Farmers Insurance Open, officials closed the Torrey Pines Golf Course to the public for the remainder of the day.

During the inclement weather, PATH San Diego said they will take in 200 people experiencing homelessness at their 6th Avenue location. Father Joe's Villages' main campus at 1501 Imperial Avenue will open 200 beds tonight. The San Diego Housing Commission helped make this possible because of El Nino, a PATH spokeswoman said. 

Along the coast, residents began picking up sandbags to help fight flooding. Barry Benn, a Point Loma resident, placed his along a window where water rushed in during the last El Nino storm.

"When the rain comes straight down, there's no problem," Benn said. "But when you guys keep saying it's going to be windy, it comes in from Coronado at a 45 degree angle. That whips right in between the window and patio." 

The City of San Diego placed some portable pumps at various low-lying locations. The station moves water from the street into the ocean quickly, so water does not build up. One such pump is located at Abbott and Santa Monica Street in Ocean Beach.

The Storm Water Manager said they rented more of the pump stations than they ever had before. City workers were on standby Sunday in case the storm gets severe. 

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for western San Diego County until 4:45 p.m. as a wall of severe thunderstorms capable of bringing winds up to 60 miles per hour. Oceanside, Escondido, El Cajon, Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Temecula, San Marcos, Santee, Poway, Fallbrook, Lakeside, Ramona, Solana Beach, Alpine, Camp Pendleton, Del Mar, and nearby areas were affected. 

A high wind warning was in effect for the San Diego County mountains until 6 p.m. Monday.

Late Monday morning through Monday afternoon, winds heading west to northwest are expected to reach 25 to 35 miles per hour with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour.

The strongest winds will hit mountain ridge tops and desert mountain slopes.

As of 2 p.m. some of the highest rainfall totals were reported at Palomar Observatory with 2.56 inches, Julian with1.45 inches and Brich Hill with 1.98 inches. Alpine and Fallbrook both got .64 inches. Lake Wohlford and Valley Center got 1.06 and .95 inches respectively. Along the coast the San Marcos landfill recieved some of the highest rainfall with .56 inches.

After the storm passes, next week looks mostly sunny. For weather updates from NBC 7, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[Buying Sandbags While the Sun Shines]]>367043021Fri, 29 Jan 2016 21:27:46 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sand+bags1.jpg

Adam Geoffrey remembers the "flood" of people that showed up at his hardware store after the last series of El Nino storms.

"The parking lot was filled up and everyone wanted sandbags," said Geoffrey, "and they were too late."

Hammer & Nails Ace Hardware in Pacific Beach and other hardware stores ran out of bags before the rains ended. Even free bags offered by local cities and the county were gone.  

Erica Roman works at the hardware store and was surprised by the heavy rains backing up in her backyard.

"It turned into a lake and came in through the living room door," said Roman.

Friday, hardware stores had plenty of bags, as do many fire stations and lifeguard stations. Some offer only bags, while others had bags filled with sand.  

But you don't want to put too much sand into the bags.  Road crew workers say you want to fill bags with sand or gravel a little more than half way so they can still settle and work together to block rising water.

But where can you get the sand? Some people fill their bags at the beach.

"I don't think you're allowed to," said Roman, "I'm pretty sure it is illegal."

Bags cost around 50¢ each when you buy them in bulk. At that price it's wise to stock up on a few before the rains come.  

Photo Credit: Consumer Bob]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Forecast: Heavy Rain to Hit San Diego]]>366634141Sat, 30 Jan 2016 20:49:45 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/011016+rain+weather+generic.jpg

A highly-anticipated storm system will move into Southern California this weekend, bringing much needed rain to the region -- the first substantial rainfall to hit San Diego since the top of January.

Big surf, high winds, possibly heavy rain and mountain snow are expected, as the storm moves ashore Sunday.

“This is a very typical El Nino storm,” said NBC 7 meteorologist Jodi Kodesh. “The plume of moisture associated with it, stretches all the way to Hawaii, so it’s packing some moisture.”

As soon as late Saturday night, showers could develop in our area. The storm itself will not move though until Sunday, possibly lingering into Monday morning.

A high wind warning is in effect for the San Diego County mountains until 6 p.m. Monday. Sunday, winds could reach 20 to 30 miles per hour with some gusts reaching 55 miles per hour. Later Sunday evening, gusts could reach up to 70 miles per hour with some isolated damaging gusts reaching 85 miles per hour. This will make driving extremely difficult, and could topple trees and power lines.

Late Monday morning through Monday afternoon, winds heading west to northwest are expected to reach 25 to 35 miles per hour with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. 

The strongest winds will hit mountain ridge tops and desert mountain slopes. 

San Diego police and lifeguards have closed down Ocean Beach Pier for the weekend as a precaution.

“These waves are wind-driven, so you can bet wind will also be a problem with this storm,” said Kodesh. “Gale force winds are possible over the outer coastal waters, making it dangerous for boaters.”

Moderate rain is likely with this storm, and heavy rain possible. Coastal cities and inland valleys could receive anywhere from a quarter of an inch, to an inch of rain, while more than two inches could fall in the foothills and mountains. Desert areas are expected to receive about a quarter of an inch.

A Winter Weather Advisory will be issued 6 p.m. Sunday until 4 a.m. Monday for the San Diego County mountains, NBC 7's Vanessa Herrera said. 

Sunday, the snow level will start around 6,500 feet, dropping to 4,000 Sunday night. Moderate to heavy snowfall will be possibly above 5,000 feet. By Monday morning, the snow level will have fallen to 3500 feet, where a dusting of snow is possible.

After the storm passes, next week looks mostly sunny. For weather updates from NBC 7, click here.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA['Unacceptable:' Councilmember on Absent Staffers]]>366984361Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:11:38 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/storm-drain-preps-committee_2.jpg

Days before a powerful storm is scheduled to arrive in San Diego, a council committee's attempt to check in on the City's readiness was stalled when no one from the department handling the preparations attended the meeting. 

City Councilman David Alvarez said he's prepared to legally summon city staff members to attend the next city environment committee meeting after, he said, they refused to show up Thursday.

Days before a storm was expected to hit San Diego, Alvarez said he needed to question staffers about the city’s storm water preparedness. The meeting’s agenda showed there was an item regarding a status report on the city’s situation, but only a representative from the Mayor’s office was present to discuss it.

“When a committee puts an item on the agenda, it is the expectation that staff will be here to answer questions from committee members from the council,” said Alvarez. “I have never seen this before. We need to have someone here.”

NBC 7 spoke over the phone with Kris McFadden, the director of San Diego’s Transportation and Storm Water Department. He explained why he nor a member of his staff were not at the meeting.

“We got a storm that's about 36 hours out that we're preparing for and we don’t want to keep those crews from discontinuing that really good work,” McFadden said. “Because we really are gearing up for this El Nino. We've being doing unprecedented work on our channels and throughout the city and seeing a lot of results.”

Alvarez told NBC 7 the situation of staffers not showing up when their item is on an agenda is very unusual, even unprecedented.

Alvarez doesn’t want to see another situation like the one that happened in San Carlos earlier this month. When the storm hit, it created violent storm waters that damaged at least eight homes in the area. A storm water drain busted, and residents blamed the damage on the city.

When asked if San Diego is ready for this weekend’s expected storm, McFadden said the city was prepared.

Alvarez maintains he, other committee members and the public needed to hear that at the public meeting. He said he’s prepared to go through the courts to summon the missing staff members, including Mayor Kevin Faulconer, to the next committee meeting in February.

McFadden said he feels that’s unnecessary because he and his team plan to be there.

<![CDATA[El Nino Storms Unearth 1930s 'Sin Ship' Wreckage]]>366799351Thu, 28 Jan 2016 13:04:06 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Coronado+Shipwreck+2016+1.jpg

Thrashing El Nino storms, which stripped a great deal of sand from the shores of Coronado, California, have revealed an amazing glimpse into history.

During low tide Saturday, the rusted remains of SS Monte Carlo emerged from the beach, close to Avenida de las Arenas. Joe Ditler, who has been studying the shipwreck for 30 years, was there to snap pictures of the wreckage, which appears from time to time when sand is sparse.

According to Ditler, a vicious storm rocked the Monte Carlo on Dec. 31, 1936, breaking the ship from its moorings three miles from Coronado’s shore.

Two caretakers were rescued from the 300-foot boat, and on New Year's morning, it washed up on South Coronado Beach.

In the Prohibition days, the ship was anchored in international waters to avoid U.S. laws. People searching for gambling, prostitution or bootleg whiskey would take smaller boats out to the “sin ship” for a night of revelry, Ditler told NBC 7. 

Famous actors such as Clark Gable and Mae West reportedly gave the Monte Carlo their patronage.

“Evangelists throughout San Diego County and Southern California devoted their whole sermons to sin ships, ‘May God let forth His wrath!’” Ditler explained. “When it did break moorings and crashed, they took credit.”

He said there were rumors that at least $100,000 worth of silver dollars was buried with the wreckage when sand washed over the Monte Carlo.

The beached ship, once known as a pleasure palace, now provides pleasure to sightseers lucky enough to catch it at a very low tide.

“I’m going to research it. I’m probably going to try and get a lot of information on it,” said teen Sophie Lee. “Try and look it up and look at pictures and stuff like that.”

If more El Nino storms lash San Diego’s shores, Ditler expects more people may get to see the piece of local maritime history. Since he has lived here, he said he has never seen so much of the wreckage as he did this weekend.

Its reoccuring reappearance, he said, is ironic, given the beach on which it washed up.

"Coronado is prim and proper, and here's this gambling ship, this sin ship, that crashed on the beach in the 1930s and they can't get rid of it," said Ditler. 

Photo Credit: Joe Ditler]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Fisherman Hooks Great White Shark on Pier]]>365719941Tue, 19 Jan 2016 10:06:06 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/great-white-shark-in-san-clemente.gif

In another example of El Nino's strange effect on sea creatures, a great white shark swam close enough to shore to get hooked by a fisherman off the San Clemente Pier Monday.

Penny Novak was taking a midday stroll with her family when she saw a fisherman struggling with his line at the end of the pier.

"When we looked over the edge, there it was,” Novak said. “Its head was fully out of the water, its mouth was open. It was just like something out of a movie.”

Immediately, she took out her phone and began recording the fight.

For about 15 minutes, the fisherman tried to get the shark to let go, she said. He had no interest in trying to reel in the large creature.

"Then finally, it went under the water for a little bit. We all thought maybe it died, and then all of the sudden it came back up and we heard like a big, loud crunch, and then it like moved around a little bit and broke free and then took off,” said Novak.

NBC 7 showed video of the encounter to Andrew Nosal, a marine biologist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He confirmed the shark was a great white and estimated it was about six feet long.

That means the shark was a baby; great whites don’t usually mature until they’re nine feet long, Nosal said.

A sighting like this is not uncommon, according to the biologist, though young great white sharks are typically seen off the Orange County and northern San Diego County coasts in the summer months.

Warmer winter waters, caused by El Nino, most likely drew the shark closer to the beach.

Keeping the shark on the line put it in a life-threatening situation, Nosal explained. Sharks such as great whites need to keep moving forward in order to breathe.

"In this case, the shark couldn't really do that,” said Nosal, “so it was probably losing oxygen during that fight. But luckily at the end, it seems to have broken free and seemed to swim off, which is a really good sign."

When she first spotted the shark so close to San Diego County, Novak’s first thought went to her family members.

"I was a little freaked out because my family likes to surf so I was thinking, oh my gosh, this is just like 'Jaws,'" she said.

But Nosal said seafarers have little to fear from these young sharks, especially compared to their older relatives who like the colder waters of Northern California.

"We've actually detected some tagged baby white sharks off of Scripps Pier in La Jolla,” said Nosal. “So they're around, and we normally don't see them, and that's a testament to the fact that they're not really interested in us and they typically keep their distance."

He explained any big shark with a big mouth could potentially be dangerous, but the younger ones just feed on fish and are unlikely to approach a human.

Photo Credit: Penny Novak]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners Prep for El Niño With Rain Barrels]]>365545011Sun, 17 Jan 2016 14:05:44 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Rain-Barrel-0116.jpg

With El Niño conditions expected to persist, some east San Diego residents are preparing for the next round of heavy storms with special barrels used to capture rainwater.

Such is the case for Jamul homeowners Juan and Lizbeth Diaz. The couple bought four barrels to capture rainwater through their storm drains. They plan to use that water for their plants and trees.

“It’s a good way to conserve water since we have such a big yard, a good way to spread it out through our yard,” Lizbeth told NBC 7.

Juan said it was pretty easy install the rain barrels. He followed the instructions that came with them, and had the required tools in his garage.

Currently, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is offering rebates of up to $300 for the usage of four 50-gallon rain barrels, or $75 per qualifying barrel. Since this rebate program began in October 2013, MWD has paid homeowners $1.1 million.

Lizbeth admits the idea of using the barrels for her home took a bit of convincing, but she is happy with the result. Aesthetically, she said the barrels match her home, which is part of the appeal.

“When my husband told me about them, I was kind of scared. I thought they were going to be those big bulky ones,” she explained. “I thought they looked pretty cool. They go with the house well. So I really like them.”

Lizbeth says the barrels also double as a home for her flowers and plants.

“It's not just a barrel that has water. It's a planter, [with] nice little plants. It matches the house,” Juan added.

Lizbeth and Juan bought the rain barrels last month and were able to fill them up during the recent El Nino storms. From his experience, Juan says it takes about 10 minutes of rain to fill up the barrels.

“Before the rain begins, I like to empty my tanks. Then I'm ready to collect more water,” he explained.

The rain barrels also have another unexpected benefit: keeping some plants out of reach of gophers, who like to eat roots.

“I don't know why we have gophers all over our dirt. So when our kids run around, their shoes sink in. So instead of having plants on the ground that the gophers are going to eat up, we just have them on top of our rain barrels and it works out,” said Lizbeth.

While the rain barrels help with water conservation, the MWD said the main purpose of the barrels is to teach homeowners about rain harvesting.

For now, there is no end date for MWD’s barrel rebate program. So, if you're thinking about intalling some of them at your home, you can get more information on the program here. MWD also offers several other rebates on household items that save water.

Homeowners should also check with their individual water district for water-saving incentives.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[How to Report, Fix Potholes in San Diego]]>365351911Thu, 14 Jan 2016 23:10:55 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+pothole.png

Heavy El Nino rains last week unearthed a familiar problem: potholes.

As drivers travel across bumpy roads and notice particularly bad patches, San Diego city officials want to know. The city is reminding residents to access its website or hotline number to advise crews where the potholes are located.

“If we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it,” said city spokesperson Bill Harris.

Harris said since the city went to the current reporting system two years ago, complaints have dropped by the thousands. Once a request is made, he said crews will repair the pothole within 10 days. Not only are they just patching the problem, crews are also repairing the surrounding asphalt.

Also on the city website, users can see by council district exactly where repair crews are working on any given day. It will give you an idea when crews are in your neighborhood.

Click here to access the website or call the hotline at (619) 527-7500.

The outlets are certainly welcome news for drivers who are frustrated with the problem, which has grown in the last week.

“I hit one and it’s like I’m going to need a wheel alignment. It’s all because of the potholes. You can’t avoid them,” said Dinia Nunn of Sabre Springs.

But many drivers remain cynical about the city’s online reporting system. To that, city spokesperson Harris said give it a try.

“You really shouldn’t be cynical about it. I know it’s an unusual thing when you’re not interacting with a person, but trust me on this one. That is an online report form that gets right into the hands of the crews,” said Harris.

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda]]>
<![CDATA[How to Best Prepare for Upcoming El Nino Storm Season]]>364813391Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:11:45 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/elninocleanuppic-PIC_0.jpg

Officials want San Diegans to stay vigilant about flood preparedness heading into weeks of El Nino-fueled storms in light of dozens of water rescues and damaging flooding last week. 

Following a week of strong, El Nino-fueled storms, City and County officials held a press conference to remind San Diegans of ways they can better prepare themselves for the remainder of the upcoming El Nino storms, offering resources and advice for residents. 

"If anyone had somehow missed the warnings, this series of storms should put us on notice," said Supervisor Ron Roberts. "This El Nino and the concerns with El Nino are very real and they're going to be with us through this rainy season."

Many parts of San Diego experienced heavy flooding last week after a series of storms and even a rare tornado warning. Future storms are expected to bring more severe weather to San Diego. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, San Diego Police call centers received 1,300 more calls than usual as a series of storms touched down across much of the County, said San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Chief Shelley Zimmerman.The City of San Diego received 500 storm related service calls. During the storms, there were 67 water rescues over a five day period.

Officials reminded San Diegans to prepare their homes and businesses and utlize emergency preparedness resources. Some of those resources include:

  • Registering for the region's mass alert system with AlertSanDiego by clicking here 
  • Visit ReadySanDiego to prepare for disasters such as flooding
  • If you've already suffered damage, fill out a damage survey here to better help the city pursue relevant state and federal dollars for aid
  • If you have a flood-related issue, call 211 for help and information

Zimmerman also recommended while it was sunny outside to explore different ways to get home and to get to work.

"As many people found out, it seems like many people only know one way home one way to work one way to school," ZImmerman said, adding that when flooding blocked their paths home, they got stuck.

Officials also recommended people know where they would evacuate to if asked to evacuate and to find alternative routes to get there, in case one way is blocked. 

SDG&E Chief Energy Delivery Officer Caroline Winn said the system "performed well" during the first set of storms. Teams have been preparing for heavy rainfall for months with inspections, collaborations, adding extra equipment and consulting meteorologists. 

“I know that electric and gas outages are never convenient but sometimes they aren’t avoidable," Winn said. 

In response to some of their most vulnerable customers needing extra help, SDG&E has purchased Safety Out Kits from Citizens Voice with a packet that includes resources like door handles to alert neighbors, and other resources for someone home-bound during an emergency. Distribution of the kits has already begun to customers through Elder Help, Meals on Wheels and, soon, the American Medical Response Company. 

Winn also announced SDG&E is donating $70,000 to the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation and will acquire three emergency generators for San Diego County emergency shelters. 

Going into a strong El Nino, Roberts said, means everyone needs to be prepared, regardless of whether or not they think their place will flood. 

“Just because your property didn’t flood in these rain storms, you still need to prepare," Roberts said. "No matter where you live, whether you're at the top of the hill or the bottom of a canyon, you still need to prepare. A number of factors, including the rain we’ve got and how saturated the ground is, could make the next experience quite different."

Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[Expect More Stranded Marine Animals During El Nino: Vet]]>364749791Sat, 09 Jan 2016 16:38:54 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Untitled-12.gif

Many more expected El Nino storms, in combination with warming coastal waters, could lead to an increase of stranded animals off the coast of California, a specialized veterinarian with SeaWorld said. 

"If more animals end up in trouble on our beaches, they will go find unusual spots to hollow out and to rest and just to warm up," said Hendrik Nollens, a veterinarian with SeaWorld San Diego. He works with stranded animals. "So we will see increased numbers of sea lions on our beaches this year."

San Diego endured its first El Nino-fueled storm this past week, which left roads flooded and broken, thousands without power and many homes damaged from flood waters. When the rain quelled, one NBC7 viewer found a sea lion sitting on her porch

Situations like those may become more common, Nollens said. 

"We will see increased numbers (of stranded animals), which probably means that we will see increased unusual scenarios where sea lions sit in cars or on highways or on on ramps or on back porches," said Nollens.

Sea lions especially can be quick and smart, Nollens said, so they are more likely to find dry and safe places. 

The expected increase in stranded animals has been developing for years, due to warming temperatures in the water off the coast of California -- what Nollens called an ecosystem shift. 

"The water conditions off our coast here in San Diego are definitely a little unusual; we are in the middle of a strong El Nino year," Nollens said. "But we already actually had an unusual circumstance for the last three years; we have had unusually warm water off our coast, which has led to increased, really unprecedented, high numbers of stranded California sea lion pups that have washed up on our beaches."

In a normal year, SeaWorld San Diego will rescue 150 to 200 stranded seals and sea lion pups. Usually, April, May and June are their busiest months. 

However, Nollens said, they haven't had a normal year in three years. Since Jan. 8, crews have already rescued eight animals. This year, they aren't sure what to expect when El Nino mixes with the warming waters. 

"We don’t actually really know what to expect," said Nollens. "Something's going to happen; the two may compound each other, they probably will, its kind of an unusual scenario; we don’t know what to expect."

To notify SeaWorld about a possible stranded animal, please call (800) 541-7325.

Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego's New Water Rescue Flood Plan Put Into Action]]>364744001Mon, 11 Jan 2016 15:35:30 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MiramarPic2-PIC_0.jpg

 San Diego firefighters and lifeguards began using a new guide to help protect communities prone to flooding during the first of potentially many El Nino-fueled storms. 

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) firefighters and Lifeguards created the guide in preparation for El Nino. 

"The idea is to have a common plan on how to deal with these areas, especially when we know these are the areas that usually do flood," says Lt. John Sandmeyer, a lifeguard with San Diego Fire Rescue. "Rather than restarting from scratch each time. We have a history of being down here (Mission Valley), some of the same areas getting closed, some of the same streets being inundated."

Lifeguards identified 5 areas that have the highest risk of floods and rescues:

  • Mission Valley East (of Interstate 805)
  • Mission Valley West (of Interstate 805)
  • Sorrento Valley
  • Chollas Creek
  • San Ysidro/Tijuana River Valley

The water rescue guide is a combination of tactical maps, flood gauge readings, and forecast data from the National Weather Service.

It uses templates from the regional wildland pre-fire plan.

Lifeguards say a big part of the plan is initiating staging areas for evacuees and knowing when to bring in additional assets, such heavy equipment.

This week, first responders used the new plan in another high risk area, Sorrento Valley, to evacuate Roselle Street.

"The San Diego Police Department is our partner in the evacuation part of the plan," says San Diego Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Craig Newell. "Using the National Weather Service forecast data, knowing how deep and how high a river is going to go, we can tell how wide it's going to spread and what businesses and residents will be affected by the flooding."

Firefighters say it's very important people heed the safety warnings from emergency responders.

"If people don't evacuate, it exposes them to complications of contaminated flood waters. Also, if we have to go back and rescue someone, it's a drain on necessary resources," says Newell.

Chollas Creek is considered another high risk area because it's a flood control channel that runs through Southeast San Diego.

"One of the concerns we have with Chollas Creek is the flood channels were designed to move as much water as possible to prevent the flooding. But in doing so, the slick walls of the channel are a hazard to anyone who falls into a flood control channel and a hazard to the firefighters or lifeguards who rescue them," says Newell. "It's very difficult to rescue anyone because there is never a stop or a break in the water flow."

The new water rescue plan identifies 41 places along Chollas Creek where it's safe to rescue someone.

Under California's mutual aid agreement, all first responders can be called out to help in other areas.

The plan makes it much easier for first responders in other agencies to jump in and help.

First responders can access the plan through their electronic devices, so they can prepare, even as they head to an emergency.

"They see the hazards that are present. They know the conditions of the flooding. They know the access points. They know the points for the staging areas. They know the command post locations," says Newell. "Information to us is power. People in the field have to make critical decisions so they can use that information to make good tactical decisions because so many variations and so many variables come with a river rescue event... if the person is trapped in moving water, if they're trapped in stillwater, if they're trapped in a flood control channel. We can't predict all of those events, but we can give them a good format to give them an understanding of the resources available to them."

Another important element of the new guide is getting the word out to the public through mainstream media and social media, and also making sure there's a common message on safety alerts, such as what areas to avoid.

"We're trying to get to the point of being organized, and well coordinated. At this point, we can start at square 6 instead of square 1 and have everybody on the same page," says Lt. Sandmeyer.

"We're open to sharing this template with any other fire agency that wants to use it for their plan. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to, can use it for their department as well," says Newell.

First responders also want to everyone to know where to find the resources they need in an emergency.

For more information about El Nino and what resources are available to you, go to the City of San Diego's website by clicking here. 

Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[After Series of El Niño-Fueled Storms, Cleanup Begins]]>364742011Sun, 10 Jan 2016 10:58:14 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OceanBeachPIC-PIC_0.jpg

Across San Diego County, residents are starting their weekend picking up the pieces after a series of strong El Niño storms left many homes flooded and in need of repair. 

"I'm probably not going to be able to keep any of the stuff that was damaged because of the water. It was just swill; it wasn't clear, it was all brown water,” Kelly Fouquier said after returning to her apartment.

 After several days of strong, El Niño-driven storms, many residents have finally had the chance to examine just how much damage the storms caused. 

“I would ask them to come out and assess the damage,” property damage attorney Evan Walker said. “Just because a property was flooded doesn't mean all the property damage is related to flood."

On Saturday morning, Cleanups for Change went out around Ocean Beach to pick up litter in the areas worst impacted by the week’s series of strong El Niño storms. Crews combed through storm drains and high water points to prevent more trash from getting into the ocean. 

Four-year-old Ashlyn Graves and her mom Stefanie are one of many families that came out. Stefanie turned it into a circle of life lesson.

“Sometimes it happens on accident, that people drop trash and don’t realize it," Graves told her daughter. "That we need to be aware ourselves at the beach to pick up all of our trash."

The volunteers filled their trash buckets mostly of cigarette butts.

“They’re everywhere. It’s such an easy thing to be responsible for your cigarette buts, but it just doesn’t happen,” said volunteer Eric Gerhardt.

“You wonder how much of it’s coming towards the water and how much of it’s coming in from the other way,” said volunteer Henry Harmeling.

Out of all the trash, Ashlyn only found one treasure—a penny.

“We found all that in the rocks and over there and stuff,” said 4-year-old Graves.

The Ocean Beach Pier is closed until further notice as crews work to fix minor damage the pier sustained during days of high tide.

Electric Chair salon in Ocean Beach was also filled with water.

“It was really scary,” Amanda Bourbois of the Electric Chair told NBC 7. “Actually it came in really fast – that was probably the scariest thing about it was how quick everything happened.”

One big concern moving forward through this El Niño season is now that the ground is soaked and the soil has absorbed a lot of water, the next storms that move through could have a bigger impact and be even more destructive.

Following a week of heavy rain, San Diego Lifeguards warned beachgoers to avoid the water, as urban runoff has dirtied the ocean water close to shore.

“It’s just urban water runoff,” said Capt. James Gartland with the San Diego Lifeguards. “So anything people put on their lawns, oil from streets, animal feces, all kinds of things, that all comes down here to the ocean and to the rain water, that storm water, and all that storm water backs up. It can be real dirty stuff.”

During the week, many streets across the county were shut down to traffic after heavy rain pounded San Diego this week, causing floods and damage in some areas.

For more on El Niño, check out our dedicated feature page by clicking here.

Photo Credit: NBC7
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<![CDATA[How to Prevent Potential El Nino Flooding]]>364722071Fri, 08 Jan 2016 21:48:22 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/el+nino+flooding.PNG

After a week of flooded streets, soggy yards and grey skies, San Diego homeowners are using Friday’s brief reprieve from the rain to prepare for the next downpour expected this weekend.

Flood repair experts said preventing water from coming into your home can run into the hundreds of dollars, but flood restoration can cost you thousands.

Tom Frederic with San Diego Flood Restoration offered a few tips to keep rainwater out of your house: close sliding doors, check rain gutters and make sure floor drains on balconies, patios and even pool areas are clear.

“You got to get someone at your house who's a professional, be it a plumber, be it a landscaper, to check all your lines, all your rain gutters, make sure they're clear, and be vigilant,” said Frederic.

San Diego Flood Restoration and other businesses have been slammed this week with cleanup requests. Fredric said in one hour alone, his company got eight calls from flooded properties.

“When the rains are coming down, the phones go crazy,” said Brian Salinas with Xtreme Drainworks. “You cannot find a company to respond to your emergency right away. That's why we can't say it enough: get ahead of the rains, get ahead of the big El Nino before it is too late.”

The flooding is most often caused by residents’ storm drains going unchecked for years or city drains becoming clogged because the storms had too much rain and debris to handle at once, according to the experts.

“Because they drain right now doesn't mean that by the next rain they are not going to be clogged,” said Salinas. “You have leaves, rocks; you have dirt, all kinds of debris that washes into them during these rains.”

Salinas and Fredric explained there are many levels of concern once the flooding starts because rainwater often mixes with raw sewage. Cleanup is not just soaking up water; it requires major disinfection as well.

At the very least, they said, get sand bags set up in case you need them to keep water from your home.

<![CDATA[Rain Clears Out After El Niño-Fueled Storms]]>364640651Fri, 08 Jan 2016 23:02:16 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OB-Pier+Damage_SDFD.JPG

After several days of strong, El Niño-driven storms, the rain will clear out and give way to some sunshine in San Diego County Friday – but more showers are expected this weekend.

According to NBC 7 meteorologist Jodi Kodesh, there was a 10 to 20 percent chance of sprinkles through 10 a.m. in coastal and inland areas.

“We’re not looking at a big rain event, by any means, today. There’s no Friday storm system for the first time in a while,” she explained.

By around noon, the chances of rain will drop even more and locals will see a mix of sun and clouds at the coast and inland, with temperatures in the upper-50s. It will be windy in parts of the county, too.

“We’ll have some sunshine – but still not very warm. After 10 a.m., you just won’t need that umbrella,” Kodesh added.

In the mountains, in those higher elevations, the chance of Friday showers is higher. Kodesh said some mountain areas, including Mount Laguna, may get some snow flurries to add to the 12 to 15 inches of fresh snow that has fallen this week.

Those who plan to make a trek to our snowy, local mountains should follow these tips for a safe trip. Remember, chains are required for vehicles on the icy, slick roadways.

As of 6:45 a.m., the National Weather Service (NWS) only had one warning in effect for San Diego County: a high surf warning, in place through 10 p.m. Friday.

The NWS said waves were five to nine feet throughout Friday morning, with sets to 12 feet. The tides will be the highest at 7:30 a.m., coming in at about seven feet.

The waves will subside to four to seven feet later in the day, according to the NWS.

The high surf could lead to beach erosion, strong rip currents and coastal flooding during high tide as battering waves pound the shoreline. Swimming conditions are dangerous and there is a lot of runoff from recent rain in the ocean, so it’s best to stay out of the water.

Due to high surf, the Ocean Beach Pier remained closed Friday, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) confirmed. Officials said the popular pier sustained minor damages in the storms and high surf, San Diego Lifeguards will keep the pier closed until repairs are completed.

Though showers appear to have cleared for now, another smaller storm system is likely to move in this weekend, beginning Saturday evening.

Kodesh says that system will bring rain and a chance of showers into Saturday evening and Sunday morning, but not a massive storm like the wild weather San Diegans experienced this week.

Kodesh said the storms this week soaked the county. Below is a table showing total rainfall measurements across the county as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

To see a complete list of rainfall totals in every area, click here

Photo Credit: San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD)
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<![CDATA[Drought Stricken Calif. Welcomes El Nino's Storms]]>364610441Thu, 07 Jan 2016 23:05:27 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/th-AP_890013665087.jpg

Despite the potential for flooding and mudslides, storms moving toward California were welcome news for a state suffering from a severe drought. But officials warned against reverting to old water-use habits.

As the first of the storms drenched the state on Tuesday, authorities cautioned that even the wettest of winters can't replenish depleted reservoirs and aquifers unless everyone keeps pitching in.

California's water deficit is so deep after four years of drought that a "steady parade of storms" like these will be needed for years to come, said Mike Anderson, climatologist for the state's Department of Water Resources.

"We're at least on a good trajectory," he said. "We've got to keep it going."

The current El Nino -- a natural warming of the central Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide -- has tied 1997-1998 as the strongest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said, citing statistics that go back to 1950.

El Ninos usually bring heavy rains to California, although it remains to be seen whether people should expect anything like a repeat of 1997 and 1998, when storms killed 17 people, wiped out crops, washed out highways and pushed houses down hillsides.

"DarthNino may finally have California in its sights," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.

"A parade of strong Pacific storms characteristic of a strong El Nino event will batter the state this week and will likely bring damaging flooding by the time the second storm in the series rolls through on Wednesday," Masters said.

However, Masters and meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private WeatherBell Analytics don't believe this first storm is as powerful as some other Pacific storm systems, and they caution that the storms now following it may land elsewhere.

The current forecast calls for a "kind of a nice level of bombardment" over the next two weeks -- probably not enough to cause the tremendous flooding of 1998, but then again, that year's floods didn't peak until February, Masters said.

As much as 15 inches of rain could fall in the next 16 days in Northern California, with about 2 feet of snow expected in the highest points of the Sierra Nevada, said Johnny Powell, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

In Southern California, between 2 and 3.5 inches of rain is predicted to fall across the coastal and valley areas, and up to 5 inches falling in the mountains.

The first in the line of storms also drenched the desert Southwest on Tuesday and was aiming for the Gulf Coast, but should weaken to no more than a couple inches of rainfall by the time it reaches the Southeast, Masters added.

Flash flooding and flows of mud and debris were a concern, especially in places left barren by last year's wildfires. Residents of the Silverado Canyon burn area in Orange County and the Solimar burn area in Ventura County were urged to consider evacuating.

"The best time to prepare is before a weather event happens, but there is still time to prepare at least a basic emergency kit for your home, your car or your place of work," said Brad Alexander, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

In Orange County, south of Los Angeles, a homeless man in his 40s was swept off his feet by swift waters and washed nearly a mile down Brea Creek in Buena Park before he pulled himself out, county fire Capt. Steve Concialdi said. He was treated at a hospital for scraped feet and arms.

Rocks fell on the roadway through Malibu Canyon, damaging four vehicles and clogging a heavily traveled commuter route through the steep Santa Monica Mountains, and Los Angeles police were rousting the homeless from normally dry riverbeds.

As steady and sometimes heavy rains fell, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged people to clear gutters and anything in their yards that might clog storm drains, and to stockpile sandbags if their home is susceptible to flooding.

Garcetti also said that the city's homeless encampments have been mapped for the first time, and he promised shuttles to bring people to shelters with 6,000 beds.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said swift-water rescue teams are ready, but he'd rather not deploy them. Authorities hope to avoid a repeat of last September's rescue of a homeless man who scrambled up a tree with his dog when the Los Angeles River quickly grew to a torrent.

The storms are whipped up large ocean swells that could generate hazardous breaking waves at west-facing harbors. Ventura's Harbor Boulevard was closed Tuesday by flooding about a foot deep, police there said.

Altogether, the storms hold the potential for massive amounts of precipitation for a very parched state, but water managers won't be able to fully estimate this year's snowmelt until April 1, when the snowpack is typically at its deepest.

"Mother Nature has a way of surprising or disappointing us," Department of Water Resources spokesman Doug Carlson said, insisting that conservation must continue.

Californians used 20 percent less water this past November than they did in November 2013, before Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state's water emergency, the Water Resources Control Board announced Tuesday.

That falls short of Brown's 25 percent conservation mandate for a second straight month, although board chairwoman Felicia Marcus said the state remains on track to meet his overall goal.

"The fact that per-person water use dropped to 75 gallons per person per day on average is proof that Californians are clearly thinking twice before turning on the tap," Marcus said in a statement.

Despite these storms, Shawn Coburn says growers like him, working thousands of acres in the western San Joaquin Valley, expect no water this year from the federal government's vast system of reservoirs and canals. He blames strict environmental laws designed to protect endangered fish.

"I hope that it rains so much that Noah and his ark are flowing down the San Joaquin River," he said. "The people that run the system are telling us to be prepared for zero."


Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Smith reported from Fresno, California.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA['The Swells Were Huge': Storms Wave Goodbye to Calif.]]>364507091Thu, 07 Jan 2016 21:16:50 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/AP_605993580582+%281%29.jpg

The tail-end of a series of several El Nino-driven storms brought scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms to Southern California Thursday along with pounding surf and serious winds.

The sun even peeked out of the clouds after days of mostly steady rain had stopped cable cars in San Francisco, stranded motorists and dumped heavy snow in northern Arizona.

Damaging surf topped 16 feet in some areas, slamming against the coast – and delighting surfers in renowned spots like Mavericks. In Los Angeles County's Redondo Beach waves overtopped the breakwater and caused minor flooding in low-lying areas.

In Ventura, California, Marlyss Auster took a break Thursday from her job as director of the city tourism bureau and joined dozens of residents snapping photos of huge waves pounding the city pier, which was damaged last month by other high surf.

"The pier was holding strong," she said. "The swells were huge. Everybody was just really in awe watching them."

Ski areas celebrated a week's worth of snow, but motorists heading up the mountains were warned of icy conditions above 4,000 feet. Big Bear resort east of Los Angeles hailed more than a foot of new snow.

The week's most powerful storm came and went Wednesday after flooding roadways and stranding motorists across greater Los Angeles. Well over 2 inches of rain fell on several mountain areas, including 3.5 inches at the San Gabriel Dam in the Angeles National Forest.

Voluntary evacuation advisories in some burn areas in danger of mudslides were cancelled. But authorities evacuated 10 mobile homes in the Newhall area northwest of Los Angeles as watery mud flowed into the streets from hillsides burned bare in a June fire, Los Angeles County officials said. No injuries or serious damage were reported and residents were expected to be able to return Thursday.

In San Diego County, winds were serious enough to bring a brief tornado warning Wednesday.

The state will begin drying out on Friday before another round of light rain moves in over the weekend.

Despite the potential for problems, the wet weather in California was welcome news for the state suffering from a severe drought. But officials warned residents against abandoning conservation efforts and reverting to wasteful water-use habits.

El Nino-fueled storms also brought heavy snow to northern Arizona where Grand Canyon National Park halted all shuttle bus service. Park officials said Thursday morning that South Rim roads are snow-packed and icy.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of northern Arizona through midday Friday due to heavy snowfall — as much as an inch an hour. Flagstaff had 19 inches of snow on the ground as of Thursday morning.

The current El Nino system — a natural warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide — has tied a system in 1997-1998 as the strongest on record.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Mike Eliason via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Snow Day for Mountain Schools]]>364516281Thu, 07 Jan 2016 21:20:14 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SnowDay-0107.jpg

As strong El Niño-driven storms plowed San Diego County, snow fell in the mountains, and a snow day was declared for schools in the Pine Valley area.

The Mountain Empire Unified School District confirmed Thursday morning that all schools in its district were closed due to snow. Chris Rose, Director of Transportation for the Mountain Empire School District later said schools in that area would remain closed Friday, too.

Meanwhile, in El Cajon, classrooms at Dehesa Elementary School were flooded by the heavy rainfall, and school officials said classes there were canceled Thursday and Friday.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) confirmed the Dehesa School District had closed schools in its area Thursday as a result of the storms, too.

No other school closures were in effect as of 8:15 a.m. Thursday, the SDCOE said.

The SDCOE said each school district will monitor the impact of the storms across local campuses and make decisions on closures accordingly.

"The safety and security of students, faculty, and staff is of the upmost importance to schools across the county," the SDCOE said. "As the current El Nino storm conditions change, each school district will continue to monitor the local emergency situation and make school closure decisions on a day-by-day basis."

Meanwhile, the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Department of Public Works have shut down some roads in San Diego County due to flooding. The latest updates on those road closures can be seen here.

The Department of Public Works says anyone driving to local, snowcapped mountains will be required to have chains on their tires Thursday, including along Sunrise Highway in Julian and Mount Laguna, and on Palomar Mountain.

Officials will enforce chain control along Sunrise Highway in an effort to curb accidents on the icy, slick roadways.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials suggest San Diegans wait a couple of days before heading to the snowcapped areas, at least until visibility improves and the snowstorms let up some.

“We’d rather you didn’t come up today, for sure,” CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein told NBC 7. “Once the weather clears out a little bit – which will probably be this weekend, according to the Weather Service – then come out and enjoy the snow. But not today and not tomorrow, if the weather holds up.”

NBC 7 meteorologist Jodi Kodesh echoed that recommendation, and said visitors should wait a bit before braving the snow and driving conditions.

Nevertheless, many families made the drive to have a snow day of their own.

Kensington Villareal, a young San Diegan enjoying the cold, called the snow amazing "because you can sled on it and throw snowballs at your sister."

Some stopped on Sunrise Highway, before the snow got too deep. Whether there was a lot or a little, everyone loved the taste of winter weather.

"This is something that doesn't happen all the time, so take advantage of it," said Madison, Kensington's 13-year-old sister.

Officials said those who decide to head to the mountains should take several precautions before making the trek to the snow, including checking the tire pressure and windshield wipers on their vehicles. Visitors should also wear warm clothing and pack an extra change of clothing, plus adequate food and water, in case of an emergency.

Photo Credit: Elena Gomez]]>
<![CDATA[Rain Collapses Roof at Goodwill Store]]>364544641Thu, 07 Jan 2016 13:56:07 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Goodwill-Roof-Collapse-0106.jpg

As El Niño storms pummeled San Diego County Wednesday night, the heavy rainfall caused the roof of a Goodwill store and donation center to collapse in Escondido, sending water rushing into the business.

The Escondido Police Department said the store in the 500 block of West Washington Avenue sustained heavy damage from the storm at around 11:30 p.m. when the roof gave out.

Police said the roof of the building was flat and simply couldn’t hold the weight of all the rainfall that had pooled atop the thrift store.

As the roof caved in, chunks of the building flew into the store, the rain soaking the floor, clothing and merchandise inside.

Police said no one was injured in the incident.

The store was closed Thursday as efforts were under way to repair the damages, Darlene Cossio, director of communications for Goodwill Industries of San Diego County, told NBC 7.

At this point, Cossio said it is unknown when the Escondido store will reopen, but plans are being made to get the location up and running as soon as possible.

For now, amid the location’s temporary closure, Cossio said patrons can shop at other Goodwill stores and also donate items to replace the merchandise damaged in the roof collapse at the following Goodwill locations:

Goodwill Donation Storefront (Felicita)
1815A So. Centre City Parkway

Goodwill Retail Store (Vista)
1056 East Vista Way

Goodwill Retail Store (Rancho Bernardo)
15703 Bernardo Heights Parkway

Goodwill Bookstore (San Marcos)
685 South Rancho Santa Fe Road

Patrons can also visit the San Diego Goodwill website to find other locations in their area.

Photo Credit: OnScene.TV]]>
<![CDATA[East County Mudslide Creeps Into Homes]]>364523951Thu, 07 Jan 2016 13:55:36 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Jamacha-Mudslide.jpg

Heavy rainfall caused a mudslide in a Rancho San Diego neighborhood Thursday morning, creating a huge mess for residents and prompting San Diego County officials to shut down traffic in the impacted area.

The muddy mess developed at Willow Glen Drive and Hillsdale Road after mud from a hill slid into the streets. The mudslide trickled down to some homes in the area, thick mud and dark, brown water pooling in yards and creeping into homes and garages.

Equipped with shovels, homeowners, including Tony Lewellen, worked tirelessly to dig trenches for the muds and divert the water and dirt from their properties.

Lewellen and his family told NBC 7 they began digging ditches Wednesday night to keep the mud from sliding into their home.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The trenches were no match for the persistent El Niño rainfall.

About four inches of mud made its way into the family's house. On Thursday morning, Lewellen's family was still working to clean up the mess and their home remained flooded.

Lewellen's family was in the process of digging another ditch to direct the mudslide down their driveway and away from their home.

Many residents said they were devastated by the mudslide damage and, quite frankly, angry. They wish more had been done by county departments to prevent this from happening ahead of the forecasted El Niño storms.

“It’s just overwhelmed,” said Lewellen, referring to the hillside and his flooded home. “As you can see, there’s not much vegetation left up there because of the drought and stuff, so it’s like a slip-and-slide – it just runs down the mountain.”

Some neighbors, including Dan Butch, said they were upset that the county has allowed grading on the hillside near their homes because they feel that has fueled much more destructive mudslides amid heavy storms like the one that hit this week.

However, San Diego County officials told NBC 7 that particular hillside area in Rancho San Diego is private property, and the owner of that property had permits to conduct the grading.

County officials said they are working with the owner to address the issue moving forward, to curb potential mudslides in future storms.

Still, Butch said he’s irked by the outcome, and the mess.

Clad in a yellow rain coat, he trudged through muddy water for hours Thursday like many of his neighbors, shoveling mud away from his home.

“We’re inconvenienced. This should’ve never happened and if the county didn’t approve this [the grading permits], this would’ve never happened,” Butch told NBC 7. “They graded fresh dirt, left it on the side of the hill and as soon as the rain hit the fresh dirt, it was worse than fires.”

San Diego County officials said Willow Glen Drive from Hillsdale Road to Willow Glen Way would remain closed off to traffic while crews worked to clean up the area and make it safe for residents and motorists.

Photo Credit: Liberty Zabala]]>
<![CDATA[El Niño Storms Prompt Weather Warnings]]>364508481Thu, 07 Jan 2016 14:24:54 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rain-stock-breaking-148110839.jpg

Another day of strong El Niño storms prompted warnings and watches across San Diego County Thursday, including a weather warning for the San Diego International Airport.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said an aviation weather warning was in effect for Lindbergh Field for “cloud to ground lightning” from 6:30 a.m. through at least 7:30 a.m.

The warning meant thunderstorms with lightning would move or be within five miles of the airport for that hour-long period. The thunderstorms would move east out of the area after 7:45 a.m., the NWS said.

Other NWS warnings in effect Thursday due to the wild, wet weather included a flood warning for the flood-prone San Diego River near Fashion Valley, as well a high surf warning for the coast.

The winter storm warning remains in place in Pine Valley through 10 p.m. as snow sweeps the mountain region. There, the Mountain Empire Unified School District closed all schools Thursday, declaring it a snow day for students.

NBC 7  meteorologist Jodi Kodesh said very strong wind gusts up to 45 or 50 mph are possible in the mountains, so people should avoid driving to those areas for now, as the roads and conditions are dangerous.

"It's nearly impossible to drive because white-out conditions will develop in the mountains today," she warned.

Once those conditions improve, chains are required for those driving into the mountains.

Meanwhile, the NWS said a flash flood watch is in effect through noon in San Diego County's coastal areas, and an urban and small stream flood advisory was in effect through at least 7:45 a.m. in southwestern San Diego County.

Kodesh said the potential for showers will drop to about 20 percent Thursday night and into Friday. After noon Thursday, the worst of this particular storm will have passed, Kodesh said.

The next storm system is expected to arrive late Saturday.

On Wednesday, a similar pattern of weather watches and warnings followed heavy rainfall across the county. This included a brief, but very rare, tornado warning in effect for about 25 minutes in west central San Diego County, including areas like University City, La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Sorrento Valley, Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley and Mira Mesa. A second warning for the Escondido area was also issued at the same time and later canceled. There were no reports of tornadoes spotted in San Diego.

Get weather updates from NBC 7 here. For traffic updates, click here.

<![CDATA[After Flooding, CA's Oldest Mission Prepares for El Nino Storms]]>364422421Wed, 06 Jan 2016 14:27:57 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MissionFloodedPIC-PIC_0.jpg

 After a long night of cleaning, California's oldest Mission has begun preparing for the second day of strong El Nino storms expected Wednesday afternoon.

Mission San Diego De Alcala flooded with a foot of water as heavy storms rolled into much of San Diego Tuesday afternoon, said Father Peter Escalante with the Mission.

The Mission, on the 10800 block of San Diego Mission Road, spent all night pumping out water from the main area of their church, where they hold Mass. Crews then began sanding down the floors.

The pews only had water on them for three to five hours, so Mission workers will have to assess in the future if they will need to be replaced.

Wednesday, Father Escalante said, their work is all about preparation. 

Hours before the second round is expected to hit, workers began preparing and placing sandbags in vulnerable areas in and around the Mission because they expect more flood waters to come in. Father Peter said he does not believe there should be any permanent damage.

They will be working through the day, hoping flood water once again doesn't fill the Mission.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Father Peter Escalante]]>
<![CDATA[Californians Miss Water Conservation Target]]>364267401Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:01:18 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-467452442.jpg

 State officials say drought-stricken California used 20 percent less water in November, once again missing the 25 percent conservation mandate set by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Still, the State Water Resources Control Board reported Tuesday at a meeting in Sacramento that California remains on course to beat its long-term goal through February.

Residents have saved a combined 26 percent since the mandate was issued in June.

Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus says the cumulative numbers show considerable savings, indicating that residents understand the drought isn't over.

Brown ordered the statewide cutback during the state's fourth year of drought. California posted savings of 22 percent in October compared to the same period for 2013.

The latest figures come as a series of much-anticipated El Nino storms begin to drench the state and boost the snowpack.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Local Leaders Discuss El Niño Emergency Plans]]>364262891Tue, 05 Jan 2016 13:16:06 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ElNino-Meeting-0105.JPG

Amid heavy rainfall across the county Tuesday, San Diego leaders gathered to discuss emergency preparations in case this week’s strong El Niño rains cause major flooding.

San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez was set to meet with Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina at 11 a.m. to talk about emergency storm preps for the Tijuana River Valley – an area known to be susceptible to flooding. The meeting will also include input from leaders with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD), Border Patrol and County Animal Services, as well as community members and ranchers from the Tijuana River Valley.

The group hopes to find solutions to help keep the area from serious flood damage as a series of heavy storms moves through the county this week. There are many farms, animals and residents in the Tijuana River Valley region at risk of flooding.

On Tuesday, large, muddy puddles were already beginning to form in the area as the rain fell.

Along with flood preparations, San Diego lifeguards and firefighters are also training for swift water rescues. According to officials, it only takes about a foot of water to lift a car, and only about six inches to sweep a person off their feet. When possible, locals should avoid areas prone to flooding.

“Because the ground is saturated, don’t play in creeks,” warned Sgt. Troy Keach with San Diego Lifeguards. “If you can, stay inside.”

In Imperial Beach, some residents are preparing to evacuate larger animals, including horses, from their properties, ahead of potential floods. Mayor Dedina says his region has been preparing for this El Nino weather since September, with several plans of action in place.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Releases New El Niño Image]]>363776421Wed, 30 Dec 2015 13:22:44 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NASA+EL+NINO+NEW+1229+2015+JET+PROPULSION+LAB.jpg

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, wreaking havoc around the world, shows no sign of weakening.

The Pasadena lab said Tuesday that a Dec. 27 image of ocean warming produced by data from its Jason-2 satellite is strikingly similar to one from December 1997, the worst El Niño on record. During that event, the "Great Ice Storm of January 1998 crippled northern New England while across the southern United States, a steady convoy of storms slammed most of California, the Southwest and drenched Texas.

The spacecraft measures sea surface heights, which indicate a thick layer of warm water when they are higher than normal.

The latest image and the 1997 image both show unusually high sea surface heights along the equator in the central and eastern Pacific.

El Niños are linked to dramatic alteration of weather around the world. This year's El Niño has already caused extreme weather conditions for much of the U.S., contributing to a balmy Christmas along the East Coast, and deadly storms and historic flooding in the south and midwest.

The biggest effects of El Niños in the U.S. are expected to appear in early 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts "several months of relatively cool and wet conditions across the southern United States, and relatively warm and dry conditions over the northern United States," NASA said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]]>
<![CDATA[Ahead of El Nino, County Agreement with Inmate Workers]]>362553521Tue, 15 Dec 2015 17:57:34 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/12-10-2015-el-nino-forecast.jpg

County officials will now be able to quickly call inmate work crews to help with flooding relief and other non-fire emergency related work as the expected El Nino rolls around. 

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to make it easier for Cal Fire to contract inmates to help. The agreement means County officials can now immediately access the work crews and call them for help, instead of requesting the crews with the state government and waiting for assistance. 

Cal Fire in San Diego manages approximately 500 inmates on local work crews. One of those crews can fill about 300 sandbags per hour. 

The inmates live at nearby camps in Boulevard, Rainbow, Warner Springs and at La Cima Conservaton Camp in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. 

A similar agreement is in place for inmate crews for help with other types of work, including firefighting and weed abatement. 

Photo Credit: NOAA]]>
<![CDATA[El Nino Storms Could Drench California]]>360850431Mon, 07 Dec 2015 18:04:04 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RaininCali-ElNino.jpgAn unusual weather pattern and warm water in the Pacific, better known as El Nino, are set to bring major storms to California this winter. It could help ease the state's historic drought but could also result in major flooding and mudslides.]]><![CDATA[California Conservationists Preparing for El Niño]]>353345881Tue, 24 Nov 2015 21:25:42 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/elninocleanuppic-PIC_0.jpg

Over 100 members with California Conservation Corps (CCC) spent Tuesday on Fiesta Island to practice using sandbags for protection against flooding.

The CCC just completed a half a million hours of fire-fighting protection and now they are switching their focus on El Niño.

Beatriz Ruiz, 21, has been a corps member for five months and says,“A lot of people think it's (El Niño) almost a joke.”

The corps members learned the skills of how to properly fill sandbags and build various walls out of them for different weather conditions such as wave erosion and flooding caused by heavy rain.

“Today our Corps members are honing their skills in different stations for different flood fighting techniques,” said conservationist Phil Lembke.

Ruiz says should there be severe flooding, they will be there to help. She adds that residents must do what they can to prevent damage from heavy rain.

“Whether it be small trenches in their homes, try and look at their foundation and see if it needs any work before the rain season but most people should expect the rain," she said. 

Lembke says although the members are based in San Diego, it is a state-wide program and members can be called anywhere their help is needed.

“Usually we are contracted through city, state and county governments as well as federal agencies to provide emergency assistance,” Lembke said.

There is a 95 percent chance the upcoming El Nino will soak San Diego and the rest of Southern California through spring 2016, weather experts have said.

Photo Credit: NBC7]]>
<![CDATA[El Nino Preps: What's a Wattle?]]>352724111Sun, 22 Nov 2015 16:27:04 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/El-Nino-Preps-Wattle.jpg

As San Diego prepares for a forecasted, powerful El Nino, some local homeowners are protecting their properties with different means, including tools known as “wattles.”

A wattle is a long, lightweight, tubular product made by weaving thin branches or natural fibers such as straw between stakes to form a woven lattice. Wattles absorb excess water and filter out sediment, which helps to prevent runoff on hillsides. They help with drainage and pollution and are often used at construction sites by transportation crews. They’re also sometimes used after a wildfire.

Lakeside resident Bob Robeson uses wattles to prevent erosion when it rains. His house sits on a hillside, so for him, the tool is quite valuable.

“When I bought this house 30 years ago I knew I had a problem. The first big rain we had, the water would come up here and go straight down into the back of my house, and into my patio," he said.

Robeson solved his landscaping problem by building walkways and putting in wattles.

“They're very easy to deal with. You just flop them down, kick them around a little bit and there you go. It's in place,” Roberson explained. “If you've got a real steep bank, you can put a stake in them, a wooden stake, and that'll hold it from a big gush of water that would wash it out of place.”

During wildfire season, Robeson clears away the brush on his property to create defensible space, so he's left with a lot of dirt heading into the rainy season.

“The bad thing is I don't have the grass here anymore until another month when it grows back, then I'll have the erosion control with my natural grass,” said Robeson.

Robeson even builds wattles right onto his landscape.

“They're easy to move around, being only 25 feet long. You just pick it up, drag it around and point it where you want. Two people can drag it up a little slope,” he added. “Sandbags are more difficult because you have to get the bags and the sand, and somehow get it through."

Robeson isn’t the only person with wattles on deck.

At Alpine Rock and Block in El Cajon, demand for wattles has increased with the expected El Nino conditions forecasted for our region.

A 25-foot wattle that's 9-inches in diameter sells for $29. Lately, they have been selling left and right.

“We're getting a lot more people asking about it. It's something that sat on the shelf, dust on it, for the longest time,” Tim Ostrom, an Alpine Rock and Block employee, told NBC 7.

Wattles usually last between three to five years and can be used on any slope that's in jeopardy of erosion. Landscapers say if erosion gets close to your home, it can undermine the foundation.

Because wattles contain sediment, they will also save you a lot of time on cleanup after a storm – perfect tools to combat El Nino.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Red Tape Clogging Up Storm Drain Clearing Before El Nino]]>352466191Fri, 20 Nov 2015 22:21:52 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/08-13-2015-el-nino-ocean-temperatures.jpg

San Diego was the first city in California to declare a local state of emergency in anticipation of El Nino, and it did so in part to speed up clearing clogged storm drains.

There is a 95 percent chance the upcoming El Nino will soak San Diego and the rest of Southern California through spring 2016, weather experts told San Diego City leaders at a preparation hearing last month.

However, extensive regulatory red tape has slowed down the preparation process.

State officials said declaring a state of emergency, which will allow the city to access state and federal funding faster, is unusual.

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman said the city hasn't been clearing out debris in some storm channels, even ahead of El Nino, because it can be difficult to get the permits.

"To give you an example, Alvarado Creek, which we just cleaned last month, dredged all the way back down to its natural concrete state, so to speak," Sherman said. "I started working on that the day I got into office three years ago. It's taken us that long with all these different regulatory agencies to get the permits."

City Spokesman Bill Harris said a state of emergency declaration may not help at all -- city officials just aren't sure. He said it remains unclear if the different regulatory agencies are going to recognize San Diego's state of emergency as El Nino approaches.

"What we’re hoping this will do is two-fold really. It’s helping our city staff get the permits in place so when the state of emergency comes, we’re ready to go," Sherman said. "Also, it gets word to the governor that hey, we need a statewide state of emergency to make your end of the permitting process go much smoother and quicker."

One problem the city has is since a lot of trees and brush have grown in in places like Chollas Creek and Alvarado Creek, all that growth now makes it, under the law, essentially a fresh water wetland.

"The only reason this so-called wetland even exists in the first place is because we haven’t maintained these, for budgetary or whatever reasons, these concrete channels for a long time. So the dirt builds up, bushes start to grow, and it’s considered a wetland and then we have to go through all this regulatory process," Sherman said.

The city has to go through a lengthy environmental regulatory process to return the channels to their natural state of cement. 

For every one acre that's removed, the city has to buy and reserve wildlife habitats for four additional acres. Environmental advocates say it's that way because the city neglected the channels for so long that they do become habitats.

Another issue can be channel ownership. If the city does not own the channels, the process can be a lot longer.

For a property owner to get the required permits to clean out a storm water drain, it has to go through at least five different regulatory agencies: the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Storm Water Division and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

"Just to fix it, that’s what they want and that’s what we’ve been trying to do, and there have been occasions where we’ve had to go in on an emergency basis after a flood and just hope we don’t get fined," Sherman said. "Hopefully this will make it so we don’t have to go to those drastic steps when El Nino gets here."

Residents with questions about El Niño can check a special website by clicking here. The site has many resources for city of San Diego residents, including maps of high-risk areas.

Photo Credit: NOAA
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners Urged to Have El Niño Action Plans]]>351386981Wed, 18 Nov 2015 09:53:57 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/10-26-2015-historic-el-nino-current-schange.JPG

With an El Nino season just around the corner two San Diego communities are preparing residents for rough weather days ahead.

Currently, a strong El Nino is present along the equator, and it is strengthening. Forecasters are predicting rising tides, coastal flooding and a wet winter.

Such conditions will affect coastal communities like Imperial Beach in some ways and East County communities like La Mesa in others.

A lecture drew nearly 100 Imperial Beach residents to the Tijuana River Visitors Center Tuesday night.

Jessica Martinez was among those in attendance. She lives just blocks from the beach and has her parents, grandparents and three dogs to keep track of in a storm.

“Even if it is an exaggeration, I’d rather take it to heart and I would rather be prepared,” she said. “I want to have an action plan ready and encourage others in my community.”

Animal control officers, border agents, lifeguards, deputies, insurance agents and search and rescue officials were just some of the services behind the booths with handouts and advice.

“We live close enough to the beach. I want to make sure my house is prepared,” Brooke Kolinski said.

Coastal residents should be prepared for higher tides, beach erosion and flooding in the event of a strong El Niño.

Kolinski could write a book on being prepared.

She has a list and the last thing on it is coming here to see if there was anything she'd missed.

“Making sure I have an emergency kit at work. Making sure possibly have one in the car. Making sure I have one at home. Making sure my gas tank is halfway full all the time so if I do have to evacuate I don't run out of gas,” Kolinski said.

In La Mesa, 75 residents showed at the El Niño community forum.

Heartland Fire and Rescue officials and police officers warned of flooding, landslides and power outages in East County.

“You want to make sure you keep supplies. Any of your disaster supplies, you want to keep them in multiple locations," Emergency Management Coordinator at Heartland Fire & Rescue Mona Freels said.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Ahead of El Niño, Local State of Emergency Declared]]>351118121Wed, 18 Nov 2015 11:17:25 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/08-13-2015-el-nino-ocean-temperatures.jpg

San Diego was the first city in California to declare a local state of emergency in anticipation of El Niño.

State officials said the move, which will allow the city to access state and federal funding faster in case of emergency, is unusual.

"It’s rare that it happens here in California, but you see it a lot in Florida when they are anticipating a hurricane," said Kelly Huston with California Office of Emergency Service.

Huston said San Diego was the first city to make such a declaration but added that Riverside County was considering also declaring before damaging weather conditions arrive.

San Diego City Councilmembers made the unanimous decision Monday after the environment committee looked at a report from Scripps Institute of Oceanography regarding El Niño conditions and also reviewed reports from the Transportation and Storm Water Department.

There is a 95 percent chance the upcoming El Niño will soak San Diego and the rest of Southern California through spring 2016, weather experts told San Diego City leaders at a preparation hearing last month.

El Niño, predicted to be one of the strongest compared to the 1997 event, will dump heavy rains on Southern California and bring an especially wet winter to the region.

David Alvarez, the Committee of the Environment Chair, urged the council to take up the issue. 

“Declaring a State of Emergency in anticipation of intense El Niño conditions this winter will ensure that the City is doing all it can to safeguard residents and businesses from flooding,” Alvarez said in a statement. “The latest El Niño projections have made it abundantly clear that we need to take action now. The conditions in the identified high risk channels put people’s life and property at risk in a year where we expect heavy rains.”

At last month's meeting, the committee directed the city attorney to draft a local state of emergency and to have the council request the governor to also declare a state of emergency.

"This is going to be an emergency situation and we need to act as quickly as possible," Alvarez said.

Clogged storm drains, roadways flooding and downed trees are just a few of the things Alvarez wants to be ready for in the coming months.

"We want to make sure we take every step we can at home to take the pressure off some of the work we have to do in the channels," he said.

Residents with questions about El Niño can check a special website by clicking here. The site has many resources for City of San Diego residents, including maps of high risk areas.

Photo Credit: NOAA
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[During El Niño, Continued Water Conservation Encouraged]]>339079002Tue, 17 Nov 2015 12:48:41 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/Succulents.jpg

Water experts in San Diego have a warning as we head into what's expected to be a wet winter, thanks to El Niño: do not fall back to your old water wasting ways.

"Drought is the new norm," said Pam Meisner, Education Director at The Water Conservation Garden in the South Bay. "Even if we have a wet winter for two years, we will not be out of the drought."

The State Water Resources Control Board is also urging people to make sure water conservation continues through the winter.

"With continued heat, the danger of more wildfires, and no way of knowing when the drought will end, every drop of water that remains in our local reservoirs and aquifers is insurance in case of another dry year or more," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. The plea came as the board announced Friday that Californians reduced water use by more than 26 percent during September, exceeding the state conservation mandate for a fourth straight month.

If El Niño rain falls in the right places, it could offer a bonanza to our two primary sources of imported supply in the Sierra Nevada and Colorado River Basin, according to Bob Muir, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District.

"People, however, must remember that lots of rain this winter doesn't change the need to conserve," Muir said.

The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon opened 17 years ago to educate people about water use, and experts say the message seems to finally be sinking in.

"They're getting it, but it's taken over 25 years of San Diego educating people," Meisner said.

She created the character Miss Smarty-Plants in 2008 and more than 63,000 people now participate in her educational programs each year. She hopes the forecasted wet winter doesn't mean a slide back in the progress they've seen.

"We can no longer have rose gardens and lilies and lush lawns," said The Garden's public relations representative Reema Makani Boccia. "The goal is really to get people in here and get them inspired."

At The Garden, Meisner and 70 other volunteers teach San Diegans three main ideas she hopes they continue to follow: landscape with drought tolerant plants, use drip irrigation, and use mulch such as bark chips to keep water in the soil.

The recent move by many in Southern California to switch to drought tolerant landscaping is making a difference.

"By removing turf, the region is transforming the Southland's landscape by removing up to 170 million square-feet of grass, more than triple Governor Brown's statewide goal," Muir said.

The district, however, had to close its turf rebate program to new applications in early July because funding ran out. There is a waiting list, in case any of the approved projects do not move forward with their planned landscape changes.

If you're interested in learning more about drought tolerant landscaping, The Garden offers low cost classes, including "Toss the Turf" and "Irrigation 101," as well as private design consultations for a fee.

The Garden also has free tours every Saturday at 10am, or by appointment. The tour features a backyard makeover exhibit that shows how using drought tolerant plants can turn a backyard that uses 28,000 gallons of water a year into one that uses only 6,000 gallons. The Garden grounds also include a formal garden, organic vegetable garden and a butterfly pavilion.

The tour also includes advice of some popular choices for water tolerant plants, including: Carex pansa (also known as California meadow sedge), the Chinese Pistache tree, grevillea plants, crepe myrtle trees and native plum. Bottle brush and lavender starflower make for good screening along fences. And if you want to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, consider lantana milkweed and budlia (also called butterfly bush).

While landscaping is a big part of dealing with the drought, experts also point to the importance of water harvesting during a wet winter.

Experts at the Water Conservation Garden hope San Diegans will consider installing their own water harvesting systems. Meisner advises people to use rain barrels, specifically in a dark color so algae doesn't grow.

The Metropolitan Water District is prepared to capture and store any extra water we do get thanks to an El Niño event, because of investments to regions including Diamond Valley Lake and the Inland Feeder. The district has increased its storage capacity to 13 times what it was in 1990.

Photo Credit: Catherine Carcia]]>
<![CDATA[Heading Into El Nino, Many Repair Businesses Booked]]>346369322Wed, 11 Nov 2015 20:32:23 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/roof+generic.jpg

 With El Nino on the way, many San Diego business owners are overwhelmed and inundated with calls from concerned homeowners, looking to fix their homes up before the expected heavy rain.

La Jolla homeowner Colin Haggerty has lived in the San Diego area since 1989.

“Having been through some El Ninos here, I realized a lot of water can be dumped and I just wanted to make sure our house was prepared,” said Haggerty.

So Haggety said he had his 18-year-old roof restored this month and had the shingles on his roof replaced --- a job he initially had scheduled for the following year.

“You never really know until it happens,” Haggerty said. “Hopefully, we will get rain, I’m kind of hoping it occurs more evenly instead of the massive downpours.”

Mitch Hanson, owner of San Diego Roof Savers, said people like Haggerty are not alone in repairing their roofs.

“A lot of people could have done this before the eleventh hour, which is right now,” Hanson told NBC7.

Homeowners taking a proactive role, however, means they save money in the long run, Hanson said, as repairs after-the-fact would cost a lot more. A home’s roof should be checked out every three to five years, depending on where the house is located.

As homeowners rush to get work done, many companies like Hanson’s have seen an influx of requests.

“We don’t even have someone to answer the phone all the time,” Hanson said.

Hanson has owned his company for decades and said, in those 30 years, he has never any influx of requests quite like he has this season. In more ways than one, this season is unprecedented for him, he said.

“The amount of calls, the revenue generated from anxiety from El Nino,” Hanson said.

Alisa Cuellar with Davey Tree Service said they’ve also seen an uptick in the requests for El Nino-related work.

“They’re afraid, with the winds and the rain,” Cuellar said. “Their tress, you know, are at risk.”

Davey Tree Service has been completely booked for months now, Cuellar said, during usually calmer months – and many of their clients have mentioned their concern with the upcoming El Nino.

Hanson said if someone were to call today to set up an appointment to have work done on their roof, it would likely be a two month long wait, unless it was an emergency.

When it comes to preparing for El Nino, Haggerty said. all homeowners can do is make sure they are prepared in advance.

“Button down the hatches, I guess, is all you can do,” Haggerty said.

Photo Credit: Sara Story, Denton Reporter]]>
<![CDATA[INTERACTIVE: Unusual Ocean Animals Spotted Along CA]]>339179642Sun, 01 Nov 2015 23:03:26 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/whale+shark+san+diego+gif+1+1004.gif

 Warmer waters across the California coast have brought unprecedented sightings of marine animals along the shore and in the water. Larger fish and bigger schools of fish are staying around later in the year, and in some cases, species that have never before been documented in California have found their way to California shores. 

Above normal temperatures in the Pacific started in the winter of 2013-2014 and continue today, experts have said. Some strange marine animal sighting are the result of "The Blob", a patch of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean, and others a result of "El Nino", a warming of the water off the Pacific Coast of South America. 

Explore our interactive of some of the most unusual and odd sighting of animals along the coast of California this year. 

Editor's note: The interactive may not be compatible with all mobile devices.

Photo Credit: Emily Callahan]]>
<![CDATA[NOAA: Strong El Niño Sets Stage for Wet Winter]]>333061281Wed, 11 Nov 2015 14:49:08 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_623882555131.jpg

Forecasters say this winter El Nino will leave a big wet but not necessarily snowy footprint on much of the United States, including parched California.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration on Thursday issued its winter forecast, heavily influenced by one of the strongest El Ninos on record.

NOAA expects a cooler and wetter winter for the South. California is forecast to get more than the usual precipitation during the critical time its reservoirs usually fill, but there's no guarantee. Only northern tier states, the Ohio Valley states and Alaska should be dry.

Forecasters see a milder, warmer winter north of the Mason-Dixon line and for all of California and Nevada. Texas and the Deep South are forecast to be cold.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 7 Special: Forecasting El Nino]]>329972951Wed, 11 Nov 2015 12:59:13 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Weather-Team-7.jpg

NBC 7’s weather team takes an in-depth look at El Nino, and what these conditions could mean for San Diego in the coming months in our NBC 7 special, “Forecasting El Nino.”

NBC 7 meteorologists Jodi Kodesh and Greg Bledsoe, along with weathercasters Whitney Southwick, Dagmar Midcap and Vanessa Herrera discuss El Nino in the clips below. Click on each one for more information:

Get weather coverage you count on from Weather Team 7 by downloading the free NBC 7 App.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[FEMA to Californians: Buy El Nino Insurance ]]>336385811Wed, 11 Nov 2015 12:46:25 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sandbagging+generic+getty.jpg

With a strong El Nino in place, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging Californians in flood prone places to buy insurance before it's too late.

FEMA deputy associate administrator Roy Wright said Friday buying flood insurance is the most powerful action residents can take with the El Nino, which brings heavy winter rains to California.

Between 50 to 70 percent of Californians who live in high risk flood areas don't have federal flood insurance. Wright said flood insurance has to be purchased 30 days before a flood hits.

Wright said if you buy flood insurance for just one year this is the year because more than one-third of California flood insurance claims in the past 27 years came in just four El Nino years.

Find out what's covered and what's not covered here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Councilman Wants State of Emergency Ahead of El Nino]]>340511031Wed, 04 Nov 2015 21:23:46 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Matt4p1104_1200x675_559527491659.jpgCity officials disagree about how ready San Diego is for potential El Nino flooding. NBC 7's Matt Rascon explains why Councilman David Alvarez wants a state of emergency declaration. ]]><![CDATA[City Preps Pump Stations for El Nino Rains]]>334404071Mon, 19 Oct 2015 19:59:57 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pump+station.PNGIf El Nino brings heavy rains, the city of San Diego wants its stormwater system to be prepared. NBC 7's Artie Ojeda explains what they're doing. ]]><![CDATA[Could El Nino Bring Mudslides to San Diego?]]>333416941Fri, 16 Oct 2015 19:30:21 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Highway_58_Mudslide_1200x675_545863235634.jpgAs the LA area digs out of some major mudslides this week, NBC 7's Vanessa Herrera talks to a geologist about the chances of such mudslides hitting San Diego. ]]><![CDATA[55K Residents Susceptible to Flooding During El Nino: Study]]>330988311Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:17:12 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Wendy4p1006_1200x675_539829315800.jpgTens of thousands of residents in 'unique' 100-year flood zones may be susceptible to damage during the upcoming El Nino, according to a new study. NBC 7's Wendy Fry has the story. ]]><![CDATA[El Nino Conditions Explained: Part 1 of Forecasting El Nino]]>329968071Tue, 29 Sep 2015 14:16:40 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ElNinoClip1_1200x675_534435907882.jpgNBC 7 meteorologist Jodi Kodesh explains El Nino conditions over the past few years, including conditions amid California’s historic drought. Currently, a strong El Nino is present, and it is strengthening. So, what brings the rain to Southern California during this weather phase? Kodesh shares details in part 1 of our Forecasting El Nino special.
<![CDATA[El Nino by the Numbers: Part 2 of Forecasting El Nino]]>329967471Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:48:31 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ElNinoClip2_1200x675_534435907883.jpgIn this second part of our “Forecasting El Nino” special, NBC 7 meteorologist Dagmar Midcap discusses El Nino by the numbers, including ocean and sea surface temperatures as they pertain to El Nino strengthening. Predictions indicate El Nino will likely bring a rainy winter to San Diego and conditions may even persist through spring 2016.
<![CDATA[The El Nino Experience: Part 3 of Forecasting El Nino]]>329970091Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:51:32 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ElNinoClip3_1200x675_534449219588.jpgNBC 7 meteorologist Whitney Southwick knows what its’ like to report and forecast during an El Nino phase. In this third part of our “Forecasting El Nino” special, Southwick shares details – and incredible images – of what past El Ninos have brought to San Diego County, including flooding, heavy rain, snow and huge changes to our coastlines and beaches.
<![CDATA[The El Nino Experience Preparation: Part 4 of Forecasting El Nino]]>329986511Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:49:34 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/El+Nino+clip+4-PIC_0.jpgIn this fourth part of Forecasting El Nino, NBC 7’s Vanessa Herrera explains how San Diego County residents must prepare for a potentially wet winter. She notes how the El Nino in the 1990s led to major flooding because not everyone was properly prepared.]]><![CDATA[The El Nino Experience Landscape: Part 5 of Forecasting El Nino]]>329988371Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:51:24 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/El_Nino_clip_5_1200x675_534526531667.jpgNBC 7’s Greg Bledsoe shows how the unusually warm waters triggered by El Nino have changed the Southern California landscape. Orca whales, hammerhead sharks and marlins, not commonly seen off San Diego’s coast have already been spotted this year.]]><![CDATA[El Nino to Bring Wet Winter: NOAA]]>333137831Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:38:59 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_623882555131.jpgCalifornia and the rest of the country should brace for a wet winter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts. NBC 7's Dagmar Midcap has more.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Upcoming El Nino Will Soak SoCal Into 2016: Scripps]]>331177921Wed, 07 Oct 2015 20:28:25 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/el+nino+flooding+map+1006+NUSIPR.jpgThere is a 95 percent chance the upcoming El Nino will soak San Diego and the rest of Southern California through spring 2016, experts say. NBC 7's Candice Nguyen reports.

Photo Credit: NUSIPR]]>
<![CDATA[El Niño in San Diego]]>346082332Thu, 07 Jan 2016 18:29:41 -0700https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/la+jolla+shores+sinkhole+Che+Graham.jpg]]>