LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Forecasters are warning the Southland could be hit by what could be the strongest El Niño season on record later this year.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center told reporters Thursday warming ocean waters nearing North and South America could bring some much-needed rain – along with some other potentially hairy weather – to the region in what one climatologist described as a “Godzilla El Niño.”

“It could be pretty significant,” Mark Jackson with the National Weather Service said.

Expected to peak in the late fall or early winter, the annual weather phenomenon may yield more frequent and intense storms than in past seasons, along with an increase in tropical cyclones in the Pacific and heavy rainfall and snowfall.

“If we continue to see this warming, if we continue to see the atmospheric response in September and October, then that certainty of whether it’s going to be strong is greater,” Jackson said.

Scientists say this year's El Niño is currently stronger than it was during August of 1997, which is when what is considered to be the most powerful El Niño on record developed. (Images courtesy NASA.gov)

Scientists say this year’s El Niño is currently stronger than it was during Aug. 1997, when what is considered to be the most powerful El Niño on record developed. (Images courtesy NASA.gov)

In July, UC Irvine hydrologist Amir Aghakouchak told CBS2/KCAL9 that the predicted El Niño rains could result in excessive stress on levies, roads and hillsides that have started to dry and crack in California’s historic drought.

“We cannot stop them, but we can try to be more and more prepared,” Aghakouchak said. “Natural hill slopes are becoming more and more vulnerable.”

But despite the predictions, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists say even if the West Coast sees above normal rain and snow this winter, the amount of precipitation won’t be enough to erase four years of record-breaking drought conditions for California.

Silverado Canyon residents are less concerned about a possible Godzilla-like El Nino than they are what the weather conditions will do to the area.

“There’s a lot of concerned people up there,” resident Rick Schaefer told KCAL9’s Stacey Butler. “There’s been a lot of talk about evacuation plans,” he said.

“We’re nervous about it,” added Sue Olson.

Schaefer vividly remembers the storms of 1997 and he says the community is facing a new danger — namely mudslides. After a fire tore through the hillsides last September, vegetation has been slow to return.

At a recent community meeting, residents were told to get hand-held radios because in the event of a devastating storm, cell service could be spotty. They were also told to keep an emergency bag in their cars just in case.

 

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