El Niño 2016: Bad News for Florida?
In October, 2015, forecasters warned that this year’s El Niño event has the potential to spawn a higher than average amount of tornadoes from November – April. While central and south Florida is not a stranger to severe weather events, winter storms of this nature are not normal. In light of the tornado-spawning storms of the past few weeks, we decided to compile some of the lessons we have learned from hurricanes and apply them to this upcoming winter.
Welcome to the Sunshine State.
1997 – 1998 El Niño
Sometimes looking to our history can help prepare us for the future. The El Niño event from 1997 – 1998 caused unprecedented weather that spawned forty-three tornadoes in Florida. Seven of these were F3 or higher. This pattern most heavily affected central and south Florida. It included increased rainfall and flooding events as well.
While the 2015 warning cannot predict the future, it’s best that we prepare for any possibility. The worst that can happen is that you get a jump start on hurricane season preparations.
Pools in Florida
Pools are as plentiful in Florida as gardens. We are used to preparing our pools for the worst of the summer months, the rainy season, and hurricane season; however, we rarely consider securing the pool area during winter. Because our winters in south and central Florida tend to be more or less mild, our pools may even see some use during the winter months. With that in mind, it is important to consider the possible threat of this year’s El Niño as is worth preparing for.
Preparing for High Winds
By taking the lessons that we have learned from hurricane preparation, we can prepare for at least some of the effects from the severe weather. We can’t really prevent the damage from a tornado, but we can lessen the impact of the damaging high winds and surrounding storms. For example, constant monitoring of dead branches and broken limbs is important during the hurricane season, and the same can be said during the winter. Raking up dead leaves may seem like a chore, but this can help lessen debris and improve the drainage of your landscape. Another tip is to harvest any edible fruits or seeds that may be easily turned into projectiles. By securing your surrounding landscaping, you will help to prevent damage to your pool equipment, patio, or screen enclosure.
The most unlikely items can become dangerous in high winds. It’s a good idea to secure your patio or pool furniture when it is not in use. However, you do not want to put them in the pool, if at all possible. Storing pool or patio furniture in the pool can sometimes cause damage to the finish or even cause a leak. Some other good habits include picking up pool toys every day, picking up any dishes, cups, and cooking utensils or tools from poolside gatherings, and securing or removing umbrellas.
El Niño and Flooding
Flooding is a serious risk from any type of increased precipitation, especially with the powerful storms that a strong El Niño can bring to south and central Florida. Preparation for the El Niño event should include, ensuring no surrounding drainage is blocked and pool filters and drains a clear of debris. After a storm with flooding, it is important to assess the water levels of your pool. You will want to make sure that some of your pool’s pump equipment turned off so it does not get overwhelmed by the extra water (it may be a good idea to contact your manufacturer or read the equipment manual).
If your pool is overflowing and is a threat to your home, you may need to act immediately. Be sure to do this only if it is safe. You can siphon some of the water out of the pool manually (using a regular hose) or you may have to rent equipment. If there is no immediate threat, you may be able to let the water sit until it drains on its own. Each situation will vary, but your safety is most important. Do not go out into a storm to try and make preparations.
Make it a Daily Task
If we look back at the last destructive El Niño, these tornadoes most often occurred at night. Our most recent experiences in 2016 were also at night. What does this mean? Preparations must be made consistently. There’s no way that you’re going to be able to go out at 2:00 AM prepare for one of these storms. You may also be at work when one blows in. So, be consistent and make these preparations a part of your regular routine. Putting a little work toward safety can ultimately save you a lot of money.