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Are we ready for El Niño?


Brooke Brinar
Staff writer

El Niño is coming, and Cuesta is prepared. Weather scientists have predicted that the weather pattern could bring some bigger surprises than previous El Niños, but campus officials aren’t worried.

“We are always prepared for the worst,” said facilities director Terry Reece. The campus has prepared by “making sure roofs are water-tight, cutting and trimming branches off trees, and making sure storm drains actually drain without debris,” he said.

If water causes any concrete to expand and crack, he said, the facilities team has patching materials ready to go.

The biggest challenge, Reece said, is keeping campus storm drains clear. “We make sure that debris is away from the buildings because when you have debris by the buildings and the heavy rains come, it washes down the storm drain.” The debris then ends up in the Morro Bay estuary, which can harm sea life.

Reece and his team will be putting sandbags around the drains to keep the debris out, he said.

So just how big will this El Niño be? The biggest in almost two decades, according to physical science and meteorology instructor James Eickemeyer.

“This El Niño is still on pace to be as strong as the one in the 1990s, but that El Niño did not come with such a terrible drought,” he said. “Because of this drought we are currently in, the ground will have a hard time soaking up excess water, which will result in major flooding.”

The rain is expected to peak in January and fall of in the beginning of February, Eickemeyer said. “But we have high pressure in this region that deflects the jet stream, and it may just push the majority of rain up north,” he said.

Whatever the rainfall scenario, campus officials said they feel certain that they can handle it. “Cuesta College students will not have to worry about their campus,” Reece said.