San Diego City Council Declares Local State of Emergency for City of San Diego - NBC Bay Area

San Diego City Council Declares Local State of Emergency for City of San Diego

City of San Diego is the first in the state to declare an El Niño state of emergency

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    The San Diego City Council declared a state of emergency to prepare the city for potential El Nino flooding. NBC 7's Matt Rascon reports. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015)

    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.”

    A map of 100-year flood zones in San Diego County, as found by NUSIPR.
    Photo credit: NUSIPR

    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.