With all the warnings that the approaching El Niño weather pattern and its accompanying rains will be greater than the 1997-98 rainfall, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors has already adopted a proclamation of local emergency.

Emergency Management Department Director Kim Saruwatari made the unusual request. In her memorandum to the board, she said El Niño would have, “…an extremely high probability of severe rains, damaging floods, devastating mud and debris flows, and imminent peril to residents of Riverside County.”

The county has prepared a Concept of Operations plan that defines the roles and responsibility of county agencies if dangerous flooding occurs. The plan addresses topics such as mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. For example, the plan recommends purchasing 500,000 sandbags for distribution throughout the county.

The upcoming community meetings in Idyllwild, Anza and Pinyon are part of the plan’s effort to reach out to communities and educate residents of the impending threats.

Although the emergency proclamation is being requested before the presence of flooding or other emergency incidents, Saruwatari stated, “With this proclamation of local emergency in place before the effects of El Niño are felt in Riverside County, the legal processes will help to expedite mitigation activities in flood-prone areas, and the resource requesting process will help in response and recovery efforts. Mitigation and preparedness efforts are essential to keeping our residents and critical infrastructure safe.”

The proclamation establishes EMD as the primary agency to manage any emergency incidents within the county. As such, they may direct any county agency to respond, even if it outside the normal authority.

Another paragraph authorizes agencies, with board approval, to waive permitting fees for restoration of essential services and activities.