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If El Nino Comes Knocking


If meteorologists' predictions are correct, warm El Nino ocean currents will result in an abnormally heavy rainy season for 2002-03. Governmental agencies are preparing to heed the warnings by clearing flood basins, training emergency crews for flood rescues and distributing sandbags in flood-prone areas.

Even if the predictions do not materialize, Southland homeowners should prepare by taking these steps:

* Clear leaves and debris off the roof. Debris lodged in drainage areas can cause damming that could result in a leak. Sweep debris out of valleys, from behind chimneys and away from drains. Check the roof every three to four weeks during the rainy season or after a major rainstorm.

* Inspect your gutters and downspouts for leaks by running water from a hose into them and observing the runoff. Patch any small holes by cleaning the inside with a wire brush and sealing with gutter cement or silicone sealant. At the same time, remove any accumulated debris in the gutters and downspouts. Check every three to four weeks for debris buildup during the rainy season.

* Check drains around your property for proper flow by running a garden hose full force into them. If water backs up, contact a drain cleaning specialist.

* Take a close look at the roof surface. Look for cracks or openings of any kind. Pay particular attention to areas where vents or flashing comes through the roof surface or where there are joints.

Cracks up to a quarter of an inch can usually be easily repaired with silicone sealant. For larger openings, contact a roofing company.

If you notice missing or damaged shingles or roof tile, you may be able to make repairs yourself by carefully removing the damaged pieces, matching them at a local roofing supply house and replacing them.

Use care to avoid damaging the waterproof membrane just below the surface when reinstalling the shingle or tile. Many building suppliers sell sheet metal shingles designed for easy repair of missing or damaged wood shingles.

* Examine windows and wood trim around the home. If you see cracks in the paint or in joints between surfaces, seal them by repainting or recaulking.

These areas are prone to leakage and/or dry rot damage. Check any vertical wall surfaces above the roofline for cracks (for example, a second-story wall above a first-story roof).

* If you have a sump pump system, clean the pit and test its operation by filling it with a garden hose.

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