The following content is created in consultation with Santa Clara Valley Water District. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC BAY AREA's editorial staff. To learn more, visit Valleywater.org.

It can be challenging to think about flooding deep into the fourth year of a historic drought. But with a confirmed El Niño winter ahead, it is essential to be prepared for possible heavy rain, which in just a few days could result in flooding. The El Niño season of 1997-98 had disastrous effects throughout the county. Parts of Santa Clara County are historically susceptible to flooding, and are at risk each rain season.

As the flood protection authority for the county, the Santa Clara Valley Water District takes flood protection seriously. Over the last few decades, the water district has invested almost $900 million in flood protection programs to protect approximately 100,000 parcels. On an annual basis, the water district prepares our waterways to help carry floodwaters safely. Each year our crews are hard at work removing vegetation and sediment to improve the flow of water, cleaning trash and fallen trees that can cause blockages, and repairing creek banks.

Residents and businesses owners can also prepare for the risk of flooding by doing the following:

  • Prepare an emergency plan and an emergency kit for your home and your car.
  • Know your flood hazard and purchase flood insurance.
  • Examine your house and seal any cracks in the foundation, exterior walls and small openings around pipes.
  • Gather building materials like plywood, plastic sheeting and sandbags. Find out where to get sandbags here. 
  • Keep rain gutters and drainage channels free of debris.
  • Be aware of your neighborhood streams and drainage channel locations.
  • During a rainstorm, don’t drive through flooded areas. Just one foot of water will float away most cars.
  • Clogged storm drains can cause street flooding. Make sure the area around storm drains is clear and don’t dump anything down the drains.
  • Report any blockages in creeks, such as trash or fallen trees to the water district so our crews can come out. To report a blockage call (408) 630-2650.
  • Avoid low-lying areas and learn the route to higher ground.
  • Check for current data on stream, reservoir and precipitation gauge information here.  

The last four years of severe dry conditions have left our soil so dry that instead of being absorbed, water could run off the hardened land and create flooding in other areas within the first days of strong rain. It’s crucial to be prepared for possible flooding. For more tips on how to be flood-safe, visit Valleywater.org.

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