The coming flood: 10 ways to prepare for El Niño

September 10, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Sure, you’re hot and dry now. Just you wait.

It’s been so long since it rained here in California – I mean really, truly rained, more than a couple days’ worth, more than “Hey maybe I should buy an umbrella oh wait never mind” – you probably can’t remember what it’s like when it rains more or less steadily, more or less torrentially, for days, weeks, even months straight, in true El Niño style.

But hear this now: Danger approacheth. The signs are coming fast and hard from nature and science alike that there’s a new, far larger, far more intense “Godzilla” El Niño brewing out in the very unhappy ocean, and if most models are to be believed, this winter is going to make the ’08 downpour look like a dash through a lawn sprinkler.

(Alert! All these so-called El Niño “experts” are the same sketchy, liberal science-types who claim climate change is real and man-made. All GOP/Trump/Fox News fans are encouraged to ignore all storm warnings and safety precautions. Nature loves your livid ignorance. It’s what Jesus would have wanted).

So then: Are you prepared for El Niño 2.0? Might as well start gathering the goods now; the storms will start rolling soon, and who knows if Amazon’s delivery drones can survive the rain. A few suggestions:

1) World-class umbrella
Ever been to Seattle? Great city. Utterly abysmal fashion sense, a miserable parade of fleece, baggy Gore-Tex and clumpy hiking boots at the office. Seattle fashion, largely due to all that rain, is even worse than SF. Terrifying.

Be at least a little afraid

Be at least a little afraid

When the rains come, don’t go “full Seattle.” Skip the Gore-Tex and invest right now in a few large, unbreakable, professional-grade umbrellas. They’re sophisticated, functional and cheap enough that you won’t freak out when you forget them in various Ubers, and you can wear almost anything you like underneath. What are you, a 5-year-old at Boy Scout camp? Do you see the French walking around in shapeless lime green REI raingear? Have some self respect.

2) Waterproof camera
I have the Olympus Tough TG-3. They just released the TG-4. Terrific little beast, fast and easy and damn near indestructible (there are other choices too). Mine’s been through three Burning Mans and multiple ocean dips, hot tubs and pools and naughty showers galore, and still going strong.

Why a dedicated all-weather camera? Because waterproof iPhone cases are pain-in-the-ass bulky, and you want to be ready to take awesome snaps as the frogs rain down, yes?

3) Inflatable canoe
I confess I know nothing about the blowup watercraft industry. But apparently it’s a thing, and in space-strapped SF, where garages are almost non-existent, inflatables store much more easily and just might be perfect for cruising around the flood-ravaged streets, rescuing hopeless tech bros and baffled hipsters from their rooftops and delivering fresh margaritas to the needy.

Like this, times 100,000

Like this, times 100,000

4) Los Angeles Mudslide Drinking Game
Every winter it’s the same; epic mudslides stun the hapless City of Angels, as if they never learned that lots of water and loose topsoil – and poor urban planning – don’t actually create concrete.

Behold, the L.A. Mudslide Drinking Game! Take a shot for every viral video of some multimillionaire movie producer’s Frank Lloyd Wright knock-off sliding down Laurel Canyon or Malibu Canyon, and turning into a very expensive mudstick sculpture. Bonus shot if it belongs to Michael Bay.

5) Waterproof tent
Not for outside, silly. For the living room, when the moisture makes all the wooden framing of your ancient San Francisco Victorian swell and warp, and you suddenly don’t have enough buckets to catch all the leaks. Just like camping! Except with better porn. And coffee.

6) El Niño playlist
Are you thinking ‘Singin’ in the Rain” or maybe “Rainy Days and Mondays?” What are you, 90 years old? This is El Niño 2.0. Get serious.

This means Tool, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Zep’s The Rain Song, Tom Waits, Morphine’s You Look Like Rain. Because obviously.

7) Yoga class pass
What, you think I’d let this post go by without a devout plug for my other, nicely intertwined career? Rainy days are designed for vigorous, spiritually supercharged sweating, indoors and partially naked. Besides, my new book isn’t anywhere near done, and I still haven’t given in to the downloadable-online-class thing. Yoga is much better in person, anyway. What’s not to like? See you there.

8) Vizio M-Series
Just got a 65” version of this ridiculously good, relatively affordable slab of LCD wonder, and I’m stunned at just how obscenely how fast the glass and the tech have improved since I bought my (then-ginormous, now failing) 42” Samsung seven years ago. Add the new Apple TV and multiple wine club/bourbon subscriptions, and you’re all set for endless rainy-day binge watching (Personal recs: Inside Amy Schumer, Rick and Morty, Orphan Black, Burning Love, Parts Unknown, Key & Peele, Inexplicable Universe).

9) “This won’t solve the drought” verbiage filter
It’s going to get annoying. I’ll surely say it, as will countless others in the coming months: No matter how much rain comes, El Niño probably won’t solve CA’s epic drought. It’s too much water, too fast, too warm. What we need, of course, is a string of long, cold winters that dump tons of snow in the mountains. What we’re about to get is a God tossing a giant water balloon on our heads, and running away cackling.

Find that depressing? Best set all news filters to weed out every mention of the rain’s non-effect on the drought beyond the 100th repeat. Because yay rain! At least all the terrifying wildfires will be out. For a moment.

10) Cool baby name book/app/site
Wasn’t there a surge of births roughly nine months after the ’98 El Niño? Doesn’t it makes sense? Inhospitable weather = more time nesting at home = after you’re done Instagramming all your artsy rain photos and binge-watching ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ and ‘Sherlock,’ well, might as well get naked and knock it out. Repeatedly. After all, they don’t call it El Niño (“baby boy” or “the kid”) for nothing.

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Mark Morford

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