PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- Are you "storm ready"?
Heavy rains and storm surges turned the Monterey Peninsula into a temporary island during the 1997-98 storm season and meteorologists are forecasting the current El Nino storm will bring similar weather systems into the Monterey area. As winter continues, the potential for some type of disaster increases.

Even though the rains have already started, it's not too late to make sure you're prepared in the event of a major disaster.

Here are some ideas to help minimize the impact if severe weather strikes.

Know the Dangers.

Storms in our area have the capability of producing a variety of hazards - including, but not limited to:

• Flooding. Rising rivers and super-saturation in flood plains cause flooding in low-lying areas. Do not walk or drive through flooded areas, as the current can sweep you or your vehicle away.

• King Tides. King tides are a seasonal phenomenon that produces unusually high tidal surges. These tides can flood the coastline and increase flooding. They can also create massive waves and produce strong rip currents.

• Landslides. Long-standing drought, like the one we've experienced in Central California, can actually increases the risk of landslides. When rain finally comes, the dry ground absorbs a lot of moisture all at once, loosening the soil. This is an especially common hazard in hilly areas, such as along Highway 1 between Monterey and Big Sur.

• Falling Trees and Branches. Heavy rains and high winds can uproot trees (we had several trees fall on POM last year). Exercise extreme caution when driving or walking in wooded areas -- look up, down, and around for potential hazards.

• Fallen Power Lines. Falling trees and branches can knock down power lines. Don't assume the line is dead -- a good rule-of-thumb is to stay at least two electric poles away from any exposed or downed power line.

Prepare.

Having some extra supplies around the house is always a great idea.

• Food/Water/Cash. In 1997, severe flooding caused local, state, and federal agencies to shut down. Even grocery stores closed, and stores that remained open accepted only cash. Emergency management officials recommend keeping at least a 5 day supply of non-perishable food and water on hand for each person and pet in your home. Those items might be in short supply during an actual emergency, particularly if roads or airports close.

• Medications. It is best to have a minimum of a 7-day supply of prescription medication.

• Have an Emergency Plan. If you are required to evacuate, where will you go? Do you have enough gas in your car to make it there? What about your pets, where will they stay and who will care for them? Keep fuel levels in your vehicle at or above 3/4 of a tank at all times, and talk to your family about what they will do if something happens and you are not there.

• Assemble an emergency kit. Gather batteries, flashlights, weather radios, generators, and anything else you might need to stay comfortable after losing power or heat in your home. Keep the kit in a place that is easy to access, even if the power is out.

• Purchase flood insurance. This is not standard coverage on most insurance policies. Protect yourself and your belongings, especially if you live in a low-lying area.

Stay Informed.

There are several ways to stay informed during inclement weather.

• Research your area. Gather data to find out if the area you are residing in has ever flooded. In the Monterey Bay area, the Monterey County Resources Agency is a good source for local flood plain data and other information.

• Register in AtHoc. PoM will use the AtHoc system to send out mass notifications in the event of weather and other emergencies. Registration is a simple process that only takes a few minutes of your time. If you need help, contact a DPTMS representative for instructions.

• Update your information in ADPAAS (or your service branch's equivalent accountability system). Make sure your information is up-to-date on your unit's accountability roster. Check the phone number for the person above and below you on the phone tree to ensure all personnel are contacted and informed in an emergency, and keep those numbers in an accessible location.

• Alertmontereycounty.org. Register on this website for weather alerts and other important safety updates from local emergency management agencies (you may need to access this website from a personal computer/device due to network restrictions on government computers).

• More websites: Weather.gov, floodsafety.noaa.gov, and elnino.noaa.gov are also great sources for information about storm hazards in ours and other areas.

A little preparation can go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe during the El Nino storm season.