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Kids and El Niño: Are you Ready?

El Niño is here, and its effects will likely be felt into the Spring here in California. Are your kids ready?

El Niño literally means “the child” in Spanish, but that’s a coincidence. It should however, serve to remind us that we need to make sure our children are prepared to weather El Niño storms at home, at school, and in-between.

JBL Rain Kids 1

Rainy Days and School:  Whether your child walks, takes the bus, or gets a ride to school, they’ll be exposed to at least a little bit of the weather.

  • Make sure they have the proper shoes. Popular kids’ shoes like canvas sneakers and UGG boots are not great in the rain. They quickly become sodden, and unless dried-out promptly will start to smell, mold, and eventually rot. Make sure your kids head-out in at least water resistant footwear on rainy days. There are many choices out there that aren’t too expensive. Kids are notoriously conformist and picky with what they wear, but if you give them a say in the choice, you should be able to get them to wear an appropriate shoe or boot for the rain.
  • Also, you’ll want to see if you can get them to wear a hooded jacket that’s at least water and wind resistant. Most kids like to wear hoodies, so a hoodie style coat that doesn’t soak up the water, provides a buffer against the wind might be just the ticket to keeping your child warm and dry on rainy days.
  • Most kids carry a backpack to school, so check this year’s backpack to make sure it is at least resistant to water. That way, it will protect schoolbooks and homework, and the take-home notices from the school. And, your little scholar won’t be able to use the excuse that the rain ruined her homework.
  • If your school permits, and your child will use it, a small umbrella is a good idea, especially if it can fit in a pocket of the backpack or school bag. Check with the school office to see if umbrellas are allowed at school.

Child comes in from the middle of an El Niño rainstorm

And, just to be clear, products that say they are “water resistant” can withstand a certain amount of moisture. But they’ll eventually soak through if exposed to rain for a prolonged period of time. If the product says it’s “waterproof” it should provide an impermeable barrier against the rain.


Getting to School and Home Safely:

  • If you drive your child to school and back, consider mapping out alternate routes to school, just in case there are storm-related closures along your normal route.
  • If you allow your child to carry a mobile phone, make sure it is charged up, with your important phone numbers pre-programmed in it.
  • Explain to your child that rainy day traffic may make you late to pick him up from school.
  • And, of course, allow extra time to get your child to school on time on rainy days.

If your child walks to school, you’ve likely warned them about talking to strangers or getting in somebody’s vehicle for any reason. You may even have a safe word that the stranger would have to say in order for your child to believe what they’re saying.

But have you warned them to stay away from the LA River and rain-swollen flood control channels?

When the rain is falling, all of the runoff from streets and storm drains is directed into a network of flood control channels that end up in the LA River. During stormy weather, the normally trickling flow in the river and channels roars to life, with currents moving at about 20 to 30 miles an hour. The sides of the channels and the banks of the river itself are steep and slippery, and if you fall into that current, you will quickly be swept away. Even if you’re able to swim to the side in the cold water, it will be nearly impossible to climb out. It’s best to stay a safe distance away from the roaring river during storms.

LA River fun fact: (source LA Times) The Los Angeles River at its peak can move 146,000 cubic feet of water every second. At its normal rate, the Colorado River, sculptor of the Grand Canyon, doesn’t do a quarter of that.

At Home:

It’s also important to prepare your kids for stormy weather at home.

Child contemplates El Niño storm

Explain to them that sometimes storms knock-out power lines and the lights go out. You can ease their anxiety by doing a “lights-out” drill at night, and pretend there’s a power outage. Practice finding all of the flashlights and lanterns around the home, and illuminating all of your battery-operated candles.
(which we recommend over traditional flame candles, for safety)


The “lights-out” drill is also a good time to practice your family escape plan, so that everyone knows how to get out of the house safely in a fire or other emergency. And, make sure your children know how to dial 9-1-1, know their home address, and know how to call your out-of-state contact in case of emergency.

Stormy weather can be scary for kids, and the constant worry about El Niño doesn’t make it easier, but with a little preparation and explanation, we parents can ease our children’s anxieties by involving them in the process.

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