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San Joaquin County Prepares For El Niño Storms

San Joaquin Co. Office of Emergency Services (OES) / Submitted

From the 1997 and 1998 flooding in San Joaquin Co.

San Joaquin Co. Office of Emergency Services (OES) / Submitted

Weather forecasters are predicting a strong El Niño for this winter and early spring in parts of California.

A strong El Niño hit California in 1997-98. In San Joaquin County it caused 29 levee breaks, forced 3,000 evacuations, and destroyed or damaged 585 homes.

San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services Director Michael Cockrell says his office is preparing for El Niño next time.

"We're double checking with our communications to make sure that 911 calls can be rapidly sent out, to make sure everybody is aware that there is a threat, double checking on social media what roads are closed, and where shelters are."

Cockrell says his office is coordinating with reclamation districts to ensure that flooding supplies are on hand, that river sensors are set and tested to detect high water, and that first responders can handle evacuations if needed.

Cockrell says people are also advised to have a winter kit in the car and to monitor local websites to for conditions around them.

"El Niño doesn't bring one big storm like a hurricane, we normally get five of those strong Pacific or we call atmospheric rivers, but the El Nino could intensify those to where we could get into a potential flooding situation."

Cockrell says at this point forecasters give El Niño a 90 percent chance of arriving here.

 weathersan joaquinEl Niño

Rich Ibarra

Contributing Central Valley/Foothills Reporter

As the Central Valley correspondent, Rich Ibarra covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties, along with the foothill areas including Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. He covers politics, the economy and issues affecting the region.   Read Full Bio