Before Tropical Storm Hilary hit Long Beach on Sunday, the city scrambled to distribute tens of thousands of sandbags to help residents keep their homes dry.
The storm dumped at least 2.63 inches of rain on the city and knocked out power for more than 15,000 Long Beach residents.
“The demand for sandbags far exceeded previous storms and while some locations ran out of sandbags or sand for a short period, each location was replenished quickly,” District 3 Councilmember Kristina Duggan wrote in a newsletter on Monday.
And although Long Beach evaded the worst of the storm, city officials are encouraging residents to hold onto their sandbags in preparation for a stormy El Niño winter in the months ahead.
While El Niño technically already arrived in early June, its effects are forecasted to be more severe in the fall months. Forecasters are expecting heavy rainfall in Southern California and in Long Beach.
“We’re anticipating the El Niño winter,” said Jake Heflin, a spokesperson for the Long Beach Fire Department. “If people can store these sandbags, because they already felt vulnerable, it may be a good idea to continue to have those resources at home so they don’t have to do this immediately in the next two or three months when we’re dealing with El Niño weather.”
This winter, there is an 84% chance of greater than a moderate-strength El Niño, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For those able to store their sandbags, Heflin advised to keep them in a garage or somewhere out of direct sunlight so that the material isn’t broken down over time.
If storing them isn’t possible, sandbags can be returned to the Claremont Beach Lot or the Lifeguard Station at 72nd Place and Ocean Avenue at the end of the Peninsula.
Those who want to empty their sandbags and recycle the empty bags are encouraged to do so.
Over the weekend, the city distributed more than 35,000 sandbags and sourced more than 55,000 sandbags from neighboring cities, according to Duggan’s newsletter.
Heflin said that sandbags are “frequently used” in the city during severe weather events.
“Especially when we have the potential for an El Niño event,” Heflin said said. “Reuse, recycle, repeat—this is a component of preparedness and certainly is [due to the] disaster potential we have in Long Beach.”