Last Thursday the Santa Clara Valley Water District hosted its annual inter-agency winter preparedness workshop for the Santa Clara County Emergency Managers Association. Over 50 emergency management professionals, public works officials and representatives from state and local public safety agencies gathered to discuss preparedness planning efforts as well as response and recovery coordination. As a member of the SCCEMA, the water district regularly hosts the association’s monthly workshop during the month of October. During this time the district is diligently preparing for the rainy season and potential flood threats.

Water district staff updated regional partners on the district’s planned reservoir operations and watersheds field operations. One major difference this year is the operation of Anderson Reservoir, after the district’s board of directors voted to operate the reservoir at a lower level this year, which will reduce the risk of flooding downstream. Water district hydrologists presented the district’s new map-based flood watch website. Updated with information from last winter’s creek flows, the website includes various gauge locations along Coyote Creek which change color to indicate warning status based on creek levels. District staff are working to add other county locations based on existing historical data.

Traditionally, representatives from the National Weather Service, CAL FIRE, Department of Water Resources and California Conservation Corps attend the workshop to provide an outlook of weather conditions and predictions, wildfire hazards and implications for flooding, and available resources for preparation, response and recovery efforts.

Brian Garcia, hydrologist with the National Weather Service Monterey-San Francisco Bay Area branch, presented on the weather outlook for this winter. Colder than normal ocean temperatures and weather conditions this fall indicate a weak La Niña, which could mean a dryer winter for Northern California. This is in contrast to last winter, when there were no signs of either a La Niña or El Niño weather phenomenon. Record-setting precipitation last winter was due to a series of back-to-back atmospheric rivers, which are ribbon-shaped columns of condensed water vapor that produce heavy amounts of rain and snow when traveling inland. Mr. Garcia explained that atmospheric rivers are normal weather patterns that occur almost every winter, and are a principal source of rainfall for California.

Mr. Garcia also presented the StormReady certification plaque to district CEO Norma Camacho, Office of Emergency Services Acting Unit Manager Carol Fredrickson, and Ray Fields, Donna Germany and Cindy Martinez, OES staff. To be certified as StormReady, an agency must have an established emergency operations center, a 24-hour warning and local weather monitoring system, a hazardous weather plan and regular emergency exercises and training, and public outreach and readiness efforts.

The water district will soon launch its flood awareness campaign to educate residents on existing flood risks and provide useful tips to help prepare homes and families from the threat of flooding. For safety tips and flood protection resources, visit www.valleywater.org/floodready.

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