Don't say Mother Nature didn't warn us.
We got a big taste of what's expected to be a very wet winter before the new season officially started.
Like a bucket of cold water in the face, the recent deluge that dumped nearly 5 inches of rain on Sacramento should serve as a wake-up call.
Get ready for more.
"Now is the time to take stock," said Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware's national home expert. "This is really an opportunity to re-evaluate things."
Turn a downpour into an eye-opener.
"A storm like that brings out all the little defects in your house," he said. "Homes weren't designed to take that extreme amount of rain. People discover all sorts of things that are wrong with their house."
Dave Koch, the Home Depot's regional merchandizing manager for much of Northern California, lives in Carmichael. He experienced the heavy rain firsthand and saw customers scramble for supplies.
"When you're right in the middle of it, people want very specific things," Koch said.
The biggest seller: instant sealant to fix leaky roofs.
"We have a product (Henry Wet Patch rubberized plastic cement) that you can apply while the surface is still wet," Koch said. "You can put it on while it's still raining."
Another rainy-day hit: Rustoleum's fast-drying spray-on rubber sealant for repairing gutters.
People also wanted tarps and plastic sheeting to cover their holiday decorations and anything else that needed protecting, Koch said. Doormats and empty sand bags also were in demand.
The best time to prepare for rain isn't during the storm. In between showers, make a to-do list.
"After a heavy rain, give your home a 60-minute inspection, inside and out," Manfredini said. "Look at the ceiling; are there any stains? Notice any damp spots around windows.
"When the rain stops, take the opportunity to safely look up on your roof with a ladder," he added. "Look for any shingles that may have lifted up or blown away. On a dry day, they can be repaired."
Many roof leaks aren't straight through.
"Remember, water can travel," he said. "Where you see the leak doesn't necessarily mean the water is coming in directly above that point.
"Probably 90 percent of the time, it's a flashing issue," Manfredini continued. "If the leak is near the chimney, a window or any other protrusion, most likely the flashing (metal sheeting that prevents seepage) has failed. If you can't see where the leak is, it's probably a flashing issue, too."
To determine where the roof is leaking, use this test from roofing contractors. On a clear day, get out a hose and try to duplicate the leak. You should be able to pinpoint the problem relatively quickly, then decide whether to bring in a pro for repairs.
Often leaks are caused by pooling water because something is blocking rain's flow off the roof. Remove leaves that may have accumulated in the roof's valleys or around protrusions such as the chimney or vents.
Don't forget the gutters, Koch said. If you haven't done so already, clean them.
"If they're plugged, they can't work properly," Koch said. "That can cause long-term damage."
Survey the ground, too. Start watching before the rain stops.
"Look for low spots," Manfredini continued. "Notice the topography of your yard, where it puddles, where it flows.
"People are always surprised by how much water comes out of the sky," he added. "It has to go somewhere."
Notice where water accumulates in your garden, then plan accordingly. Ideally, the water should flow away from your house and not pool around your home's foundation or the base of trees and shrubs. That can cause rot and other damage.
"Ideally, you want to create a nice, even slope," Manfredini said. "But you don't want to create a problem for your neighbors either. Be very mindful or their yards, too, and don't flood them out."
An especially wet winter may bring further issues. Moss, mold and mildew grow rampant in damp conditions. Steps and sidewalks can be slippery.
"There are products you can sprinkle on your roof or concrete to prevent moss build-up," Koch said. "They're very popular in the Northwest. When fighting mold and mildew, your best weapon is bleach."
As for slippery sidewalks, a spray-on abrasive can give them a sandpaper texture for better traction. Or try self-adhesive strips on stairs to prevent slips.
Trees take a hard hit from winter storms. Saturated ground combined with high winds can topple giants or make large limbs snap.
Many trees give some warning before they fall, said Loomis arborist Kurt Stegen. Cracks may appear in the ground around the trunk, or the tree's shifting roots may cause the ground to swell or rise. The tree may start to tilt.
At greatest risk of dropping limbs are live oaks and evergreens such as firs, pines, redwoods or cedars. With their canopies saturated by rain, those trees carry much more weight on their limbs during winter storms.
"Redwoods grow really tall and get really heavy," Stegen said. "Thinning can help remove some of that weight."
If there's any concern, call in a certified arborist, Stegen said. Quick action can save the tree.
"You can also prevent significant property damage," he said.
Winter also is a good time to prune deciduous trees. They may not be at the same risk of dropping branches, but their structure is easier to assess and adjust without leaves.
After a storm, tread lightly in your garden if at all.
"Soil compaction is a huge issue," Judy McClure, Sacramento County's master gardener coordinator. "It can cause a lot of drainage problems."
Refrain from planting trees or shrubs until the ground dries out. That may not be until spring.
"If you don't have the hole dug already, just wait," McClure said.
In the City of Trees, tons of leaves came down along with all that rain as Sacramento's urban forest shed the last of its autumn foliage.
"You don't have to rake them all up," McClure said. "If they're in planters or garden beds, you can leave them there. You should rake them off lawns to prevent the grass from dying or hardscape such as patios or sidewalks. But otherwise, save yourself some work."
What to do with all those leaves? Save them.
"They make great mulch," McClure said. "You can stack them up or save them in bags or compost them, but don't just throw them away. They're garden gold."
Rain can cause soil to wash away. To stabilize a slippery slope, throw out some grass seed, Manfredini said.
"The nice thing about California, you can continue to garden in winter," Manfredini noted. "If you have an area that's eroding away, you need to stabilize that soil. Plant a fast-growing blend of grass seed. It will germinate in a couple of weeks and keep your soil where it should be."
Consider creating a "rain garden" or swale that allows water to percolate into the ground instead of running off. A low spot in your yard can be ideal for that.
Said McClure, "Put that on the list of things you'll do this spring."