ANAHEIM, Calif. (March 2, 2016) — We haven’t seen much of El Niño. But, believe it or not, it’s here. And forecasters aren’t ready to dismiss the potential for heavy rain in Anaheim.
El Niño, where warmer Pacific waters feed more moisture into the atmosphere, has made its presence known. The waters off Orange County are on average about 3 degrees warmer than average this year.
“We are seeing incredibly warm ocean temperatures,” said Alex Tardy, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that monitors weather and ocean conditions.
What we haven’t seen much of is rain. January and February were unusually warm with only sporadic rain — but not much of El Niño’s trademark back-to-back storms with heavy rain and wind.
Big El Niño storms have been generating in the Pacific. Rather than reaching us, they’ve been forced north to Oregon and Washington by high pressure — a blanket of hot weather that has held sway over Anaheim and all of Southern California for much of this year.
As March begins, there’s some sign the high pressure is giving way, letting in the fog we’ve seen and opening the door to potential rain this weekend.
But, so far in 2016, Anaheim is about halfway below its projected rainfall for this time of year. We’ve received less than 4 inches of rain, versus about 10 inches in a normal year at this point, according to Tardy.
It is possible we could not see significant El Niño rain this year, Tardy said. But he’s not counting on it.
“There’s a 30 percent chance that rain in March and April could be insignificant,” he said. “But there’s a 70 percent probability rainfall will be significant. It’s too early to hang up the towel.”
Models used by NOAA project March will be wet. Granted, we heard that for January and February, too. But rain and wind associated with El Niño can extend as late as into April or early May, Tardy said.
Current projections have March rainfall at double a normal year, or about 4 inches. That’s not the worst El Niño could bring but would be heavy.
“We’ve got about one month left, maybe a month and a half,” Tardy said. “And all indications are that March will be wet.”
However El Niño plays out, the city of Anaheim continues to clear storm drains, distribute sand and unfilled sandbags, seal and restripe roads and has staged emergency response vehicles and equipment.
We encourage residents and businesses to take some basic, simple steps to safeguard homes, property and loved ones in the event of El Niño rains. Just like preparing for an earthquake, it is better to be safe than sorry.
You can find #BeRainReady tips for your home and road safety at Anaheim.net/BeRainReady.
Meanwhile, enjoy the great Southern California weather!