El Niño is defined by prolonged warming in the Pacific Ocean surface temperatures. This warming creates a disruption in the ocean-atmosphere system, impacting weather across the globe. Winters, during the El Niño effect, are warmer and drier than average in the Northwest, northern Midwest, and upper Northeast United States, so those regions experience reduced snowfalls. Meanwhile, significantly wetter winters are present in the southwest United States, including central and southern California, while both cooler and wetter than average winters in the Southeastern United States. Drought and fire in the west may have also destroyed vegetation that would reduce peak runoff from heavy precipitation, increasing the risks of flooding.
USDA is advising communities to review their vulnerability assessments, test any emergency equipment, perform a flash flood exercise and move any response and recovery equipment to high ground. Rural Water Associations in each state can help utilities prepare and can provide assistance in case of emergency.
The USDA has released a document detailing the potential risk and resources for utilities. Click to view the PDF