We have been living with drought in the Western United States for a long time now.  So the prediction of a strong, wet El Niño year is quite appealing.  Will it fill our reservoirs, recharge our aquafers and bring us back to normal?  Hard to tell; many experts say we may need multiple years of El Niño to be back to pre-drought conditions.  First, a short explanation by some of the experts as to what an El Niño condition is. 

An El Niño is a weather pattern produced by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. The El Niño phenomenon is associated with extreme weather around the globe and in California it typically means a wet winter with higher than normal rain levels.  As early as last spring, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was predicating a 60 percent chance that the El Niño conditions will continue all year.  Now, the experts are predicting closer to 100% that 2016 will be a strong or super “El Niño” year.

Dr. Dough Gillham, a Meteorologist, PhD tells us, “We are in the midst of a rapidly strengthening El Niño event which will likely peak later in fall as one of the strongest El Niño events on record.”  El Niño has a reputation for bringing mild winters to much of the country, especially across the northern States.  The two strongest El Niño events on record prior to 2015 were 1982-83 and 1997-98.  They were quite mild from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeast.  Only the Southwestern states saw below average temperatures during those winters.  However, a review of other El Niño winters shows that a strong El Niño does not guarantee a mild winter.

A unique feature of the upcoming winter compared to other strong El Niño winters of the past is the expected persistence of the warmer-than-normal ocean-water temperatures south of Alaska.  Some have referred to this feature as “the Blob” and it has been a key contributor to the dominant weather pattern across North America for the past two years.  This pattern has been associated with extended periods of warm and dry weather in the West and two of the coldest winters in recent memory further to the east – especially in the Great Lakes and Northeast.  If “the Blob” does indeed persist through the upcoming winter, then the threat for a cold conclusion to winter in the East will increase. 

How to Prepare Your Apartments for El Niño

Now that we know what an El Niño weather condition is, how do we prepare for El Niño?  First order of business is to take a long hard look at your apartment building and surrounding property.  Inspect your building’s: 

  • Roofs
  • Gutters
  • Drains
  • Flashing
  • Trim Overhanging Trees 

In other words, don’t wait for it to be raining to find out that your roof is in poor condition.  Get the work done now while it is dry and the roofing companies are not busy.  Don’t forget about large trees that hang over your roofs.  In wet, windy weather they can cause a lot of damage to a roof if a limb breaks or a tree falls because of soggy soil.

Flat roofs are especially vulnerable to blocked scuppers and roof drains.  The backed up water will find the slightest weakness in any roof system and may even cause a roof to collapse.

Make sure the landscaping around your property is designed to drain away water quickly.  Connect downspout extenders at the ground level.  The extenders will direct water away from the building.  

Check for stucco cracks.  A surprising amount of water can be sucked into a building because of damaged stucco.

Clean out window weep holes to stop water from finding its way through window frames and damaging interior walls.

If you have wooden garage doors, check that the doors are painted or sealed and that the springs are in good order. The garage doors can get a bit heavier when wet or allowed to soak up water.

A little bit of preventative maintenance now will save both you and your residents a lot of discomfort later.  And last but not least, don’t forget to turn off your sprinklers. 

Jerry L’Ecuyer and Frankie Alvarez are with Buffalo Maintenance, Inc.  For more information, visit www.BuffaloMaintenance.com or call (714) 956-8371 or (714) 778-0480.