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Residents urged to prepare for El Niño

At a recent meeting held in Yosemite Lakes Park, Mountain Area residents were warned to be prepared for the Godzilla El Niño and its torrential rains this winter that weather analysts have predicted with 95% certainty.

According to John Kirk, a state engineering geologist with the California Department of Water Resources, who spoke at the Yosemite Lakes Park Clubhouse on Nov. 14, the predicted El Niño weather could very likely cause flooding in the Sierra foothills - and he wants people to be prepared.

And with all the talk of El Niño, many homeowners and businesses in the Mountain Area and Central California are preparing for heavy rains, keeping roofing companies working overtime to keep up with the requests for work.

A two-man crew with Affordable Roofing of Fresno, was busy Sunday nearing completion of a new 6,500 square-foot composite roof on the New Community United Methodist Church on Crane Valley Road (426).

Kenny Esparaza, owner of the business, said his job requests are up 50% compared to this time last year.

“Due to the drought, a lot people have put off small roof repairs or new roofs, and now with the talk of El Niño, everyone is panicking and they all want roof work ASAP,” Esparaza said. “I’m booked two months out for roof jobs.”

Kirk painted a pretty scary picture when he spoke in YLP, while urging people to be prepared for heavy rain this winter.

“Imagine YLP’s peaceful, bone-dry ravines suddenly becoming watery torrents, picking up and carrying along boulders, and uprooted trees ... days of sheeting rain penetrate into hillsides, washing soil downward across roads, into houses and outbuildings ... power goes out, and swollen streams bursting their banks, overwhelming bridges, and trapping people in their homes,” Kirk said. “Imagine so many people using cell phones that the circuits jam and you can’t call ... you can’t drive anywhere ... you’re stuck for days, and your food supply gets low.”

Kirk said that scenario is a brief idea of what mountain and foothill residents could face this winter if long-term weather forecasts are correct and the Sierra foothills gets 200% of normal rainfall.

“But there’s good news,” Kirk said. “We still have time to prepare for this scary scenario, and lessen its impact on our lives and our homes.”

Kirk said that after four long years of drought, it may seem ludicrous to think of YLP and other foothill and mountain areas awash in streams and ponds - but it’s happened - as as recently as 2007 and 1997.

Ken Harrington, manager of the Yosemite Spring Park Utility Co., YLP’s “water company,” and a longtime YLP resident, recalls the “Miracle March” of 1993 after six years of drought.

“It rained pretty much the entire month,” Harrington said. “January 1997 was much worse, when the Clubhouse lake filled up, driveways were washed out, and the Yosemite Springs Parkway bridge near Highway 41 was under water.”

Tammie D’Amore, YLP’s security chief, explained what’s being done to get ready, and Dean Dew of Yosemite Lakes Community Church gave information about the Red Cross.

The meeting was hosted by the Yosemite Lakes Owners Association and sponsored by Yosemite Lakes Community Church.

Additional information and handouts, including suggested items to have in a family emergency kit, are online at yosemitelakespark.org/safety/be-prepared.

Suggested items to have in a family emergency kit

Kirk had plenty of suggestions for people to prepare for an El Nino including the following items to have in a home emergency kit :

*  Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

*  Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.

*  Radio - battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both flashlight and extra batteries.

*  First aid kit.

*  Whistle to signal for help.

*  Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

*  Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).

*  Prescription medications and glasses.

*  Infant formula and diapers.

*  Pet food and extra water for your pet.

*  Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.

*  Cash or traveler’s checks and change.

*  Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information at www.ready.gov

*  Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each family member.

*  Extra clothing and sturdy shoes.

*  Fire extinguisher and matches in a waterproof container.

*  Personal hygiene items.

*  Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils, and paper towels.

*  Books, games, and puzzles for children.

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