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El Niño is on the way

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Lucinda Hoe

Meteorologists report the current El Niño event is gaining strength and could become the strongest ever recorded. El Niño occurs when there are warmer than normal ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Changes in the ocean affect atmosphere and climate patterns, and atmosphere changes affect ocean temperatures. All this means that the coming winter is predicted to be a rainy one, and rain will be a welcome relief given our current drought condition.

With a heavy rain season predicted, roof leaks and water damage are inevitable. Start preparing now.


Clogged drains create ponding on flat roofs. The weight of the water and the natural tendency of water to drain cause roof leaks. Clear your drains now so that water will drain properly away from the roof area.


Gutters and downspouts need to be cleaned of leaves and debris to allow proper drainage. The diverters at the base of the buildings need to be checked to make sure they are in place and set to drain away from the buildings. Downspouts directed into surface drains should be checked to make sure the connections are secure. Downspouts also need to be flushed to make sure they are running clear.


In the type of storms that are predicted wind blows water up and into vents and eaves. Some of the leaks, which may be reported, are not actual leaks but rather water entering openings in the building. Temporary protection can be placed to discourage the water from entering.


Severe water damage can occur to any painted surface if the paint is failing (i.e. peeling, flaking, missing). Water can get in between the paint and the component surface, and can then seep into other surrounding areas and cause even more damage. In most cases the damaged component has to be replaced, which can be costly. Inspect painted surfaces and have the areas repainted as necessary. This will save a lot of money in the long run.


Much like painted surfaces, water damage can occur to underlying surfaces if stucco is peeling or missing. Inspect stuccoed components and make necessary repairs.


Drains throughout the common area need to be checked to make sure that they are clear of debris that accumulates around them and prevents water from draining. The drains may need to be flushed and snaked or jetted to ensure clear flow of water.


Brow ditches are the main artery that diverts water from slopes. Making sure that they are clear for a good flow of water is very important to prevent flooding.


Install surface drains to divert water away from structures. If possible, consider regrading low-lying areas to drain away from buildings.


Drought conditions, water restrictions and recent brush fires have created bare slopes, with little or no vegetation to help keep the ground in place. Plant ground cover to help strengthen the integrity of the slope or easement. It’s important to plant now so the plant material has time to establish itself before the rains begin. Be prepared to place straw wattles, silt fences, sand bags or some type of erosion control on bare areas when the rains do come.

These are just a few tips to start you on the road to getting ready for the rainy season. Whether it’s an El Niño season or not, start now and be prepared.

Lucinda Hoe, CMCA® is the Executive Vice President of Property Services at AssociaOnCall in San Diego. She is a licensed California General Contractor with the state license board. As the industry leader in community management, Associa proudly serves 2 million households every day. With a wide array of programs to fit your specific needs, we help bring superior results to your community. Are you looking for a forward planning partner for your new community? Contact Lucinda at (858) 795-7093 or lhoe@associaonline.com.

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