Storms are on the way. Are you prepared? | Inquirer

Storms are on the way. Are you prepared?

Authorities offer safety tips to prepare for flooding, high winds and cold temperatures
/ 07:39 PM December 20, 2023

If your memories of last winter’s dozen “atmospheric rivers” have faded, Mother Nature is preparing a soaking wet reminder, with parts of the West Coast possibly looking at a month’s worth of rain by midweek and another close on its heels around Christmastime.

The storms are part of the periodic El Niño weather pattern that meteorologists say promises more torrential rains and higher temperatures across California in the coming year.

In hopes of minimizing the disasters that extreme weather can bring, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), along with Listos California, Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media hosted a press briefing offering safety tips, advice and resources to help Californians prepare for the flooding, high winds and cold temperatures that will likely occur in various parts of the state.

“Getting prepared for disaster starts with simple but important actions you can take now before storms hit,” said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, of OES:

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  • Sign up for locally specific, potentially life-saving emergency alerts at
  • Make plans for where you and your household will meet, so that even if you’re in disparate locations when a crisis occurs, you’ll be able to reunite.
  • Have a “go bag” with essential things you can quickly take with you if you have to leave your home in a hurry.

And don’t forget to use simple common sense.  For instance, if you’re driving and encounter barricades, don’t drive around them! A car can be swept away in as little as 12 inches of water, Crofts-Pelayo warned. “If there’s a barricade there, it’s there for a reason. Do not cross it!

“There were too many sad stories last year of people getting trapped through flooded areas,” she said. Along similar lines, pedestrians can be swept away by the force of as little as 6 inches of rushing water. “Stay indoors during storms and high-wind events,” she cautioned. We had too many people hurt by falling trees “out trying to walk their dogs in 70 mph winds.”

If you or someone in your household relies on electricity for essential medical equipment, contact your power company to make arrangements. If the company needs to cut off power in an area due to fire risks such as falling trees, it can prioritize keeping the power on for specific customers or help arrange backup power sources.


But don’t run a generator indoors, Pelayo said, those fumes are deadly. And along those lines, don’t rely on your kitchen stove as a heat source. And don’t forget to check on your neighbors and loved ones.

Other simple things to take care of ahead of time include having working flashlights and gas in the car.

Have fun in the snowy mountains, she said, as long as you’re adequately prepared. And don’t go during a storm if your clothing and car aren’t appropriate for extreme weather, especially if you don’t live there. Don’t put first responders in the position of “trying to save too many people at one time.”


Resources for staying safe in extreme weather

ListosCalifornia is a “Number One resource,” with its storm safety information available in 13 languages at: “If it’s too cold, if the weather is too intense,” you’ll find information on warming shelters and public shelters for specific disasters. Using these resources comes without ID requirements or any questions about someone’s immigration status. “Accepting any kind of aid during a disaster is not counted in ‘public charge’ considerations around immigration applications,” she said.

“All we care about is for Californians to stay safe.”

There’s also a text-based educational program on public safety available in English, Spanish, Hmong and Punjabi accessible by texting CAWINTER to 20202.

Bianca Feldkircher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Western Region, provided some details on El Niño and La Niña, which are highly predictable months ahead of time based on Pacific wind patterns and water currents coming off the coast of South America. When the winds are weak, as they’ve been this year, the currents turn eastward, away from the western Pacific, and draw the jet stream to the south, bringing more severe weather along with it, and leading to more moderate temperatures in northern parts of the U.S.

She said that the National Weather Service foresees a 35% possibility of an “historically strong” El Niño season, rivaling those of 1997-8 and 2015-16, that could extend all the way till June.

Navigating insurance policies

Jazmin Ortega of the state Department of Insurance provided some suggestions for how to best navigate the too-often-lengthy process of filing insurance claims after weather-related calamities. Her office, she said, has worked to extend the grace period for people to both pay their insurance bills and access benefits if they’ve been put out by the weather – including greater allowances for living expenses for people who’ve had to evacuate their homes.

She wanted people to be aware that flood insurance, just like earthquake insurance, is typically not covered in standard California home insurance policies.

“Less than 2% of Californians have it,” she said.

Flood insurance is available via the National Flood Insurance Program overseen by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, at, but you should have it in place at least 30 days before you might need it, she cautioned. For those struggling to find fire insurance, she recommended the California Fair Plan (

The Department has been a familiar presence at disaster assistance sites helping people navigate their policies and is available to help people process their claims at or through 1-800 927-4357. It also does not concern itself with people’s immigration status.

She suggested that people review their policies to see if they need additional coverage, to remind themselves of what’s covered, and to document both their policies themselves – so that the relevant information can be accessed easily – and to also take pictures to document what they’ve been paying to insure.

Social media toolkit

Alf LaMont, of LaMont digital, described Listos California’s emphasis on emergency preparedness as “prepositioning resources prior to an event.” He also highlighted a social media toolkit ( built around some of the most useful, popular online resources from last year’s storms.

The toolkit, he said, has 25 elements, including videos, graphics and locally sourced artwork, and is published in a dozen languages. (Ethnic Media Services)

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TAGS: extreme weather, natural disaster, winter storm
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