The atmospheric river is here. Here’s how to prep for a flood, power outage, or other disaster

With thunderstorms, blizzards and an atmospheric river rolling in to Northern California, the National Weather Service warned Wednesday of possible power outages, flooding and other hazards.

“We’re in the midst of the second large weather system of the year with the biggest storm expected late Wednesday afternoon, and we want to remind our customers to be prepared and have a plan,” PG&E meteorologist Mike Voss said in a prepared statement.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends putting together an all-purpose emergency kit with essential supplies that may not be available if power is lost or you have to leave your home.


“After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days,” the Department of Homeland Security said on its website. “Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours.”

Canned foods, dry mixes and other foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking are ideal foods to include in your emergency kit, the DHS said.

DHS recommends canned meats, fruits and vegetables, dried cereals, protein and granola bars, peanut butter, dried fruit, canned juice, and non-perishable pasteurized milk. In general, try to stock high-energy food and avoid food that will make you thirsty, the DHS said.

Don’t stock caffeinated or carbonated beverages or any alcohol, as these will dehydrate the body, the DHS said.

Keep your food in covered containers and keep all utensils clean. If flood water touches any food, throw it out, the DHS said.

Food in swollen, dented, or corroded cans is no good to eat, the DHS said, and any food that looks or smells abnormal should be thrown out too.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” the DHS said.

If you need to cook food, keep generators, camp stoves and grills outside and at least 20 feet away from windows, the DHS said.

If a power outage hits, keep your refrigerator and freezer closed. Refrigerated food will keep cold for about four hours, while a full freezer will keep for about 48 hours, according to the DHS.

Put a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer when the power goes out and check the temperature when power is restored. If it reads above 40 degrees, you should throw out perishable food, according to the DHS.

You can either store refrigerated food in ice coolers or you can use dry ice to keep food frozen. Use 25 pounds of dry ice to keep temperatures below freezing in a 10 cubic foot freezer for three to four days. Handle dry ice with dry, heavy gloves, the DHS said.


The Department of Homeland Security said you should stock your emergency kit with one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, but children, nursing mothers and sick people may require more water. In hot temperatures, water needs may double, the DHS said.

You should first buy bottled water and store it sealed in a cool dark place or alternatively you can obtain food-grade water containers and fill them with chlorinated water, the DHS said.

Keep chlorine bleach and a dropper on hand for emergency water disinfection. The DHS said boiling water is preferable to bleach sterilization, but if it is not possible, bleach may be used.

“Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners,” the DHS said.

Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir the mixture, then let it stand for 30 minutes. The water should smell slightly of chlorine. If it doesn’t, repeat the dosage and wait 15 minutes. If it still doesn’t smell like chlorine, toss it and find a different source of water, the DHS said.

“Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 or 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used,” the DHS said.

Equipment and Supplies

The Department of Homeland Security said that you should take an inventory of electrically-powered items and begin planning for alternatives in case of an outage.

Essentials to keep in your kit include a crank-powered radio, a flashlight, first aid supplies, extra batteries, local maps, a can opener and a signal whistle. The DHS recommends having a dust mask to filter possibly contaminated air, moist towelettes for personal sanitation, pliers to shut off utilities, and a cell phone with backup batteries.

When a power outage hits, disconnect all appliances and electronics. Power surges may occur and cause damage, according to the DHS.

If you have an uninterruptible power supply, such as a device with an internal battery to provides continuous power to computers or other electronics, SMUD says it’s important to save files and shut off computers as soon as possible as backups only provide power for a short time.

In a news release, PG&E said surges may also create a fire hazard. Leave one lamp on and plugged in to signal power restoration.

Carbon monoxide detectors should have backup batteries, your mobile devices should be charged and and your gas tanks should be full beforehand, the DHS said.

Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home, as it may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, the DHS said. Also, according to SMUD, never run a generator indoors, even a garage, as the exhaust fumes can be deadly.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said in a news release that you should always use flashlights and battery-operated lamps before resorting to candles, which pose a risk of fire.

Important legal documents such as insurance policies, IDs and bank account information should be kept in portable waterproof containers. Extra cash and traveler’s checks should be kept on hand, the DHS said.

You may want to include generic medications — painkillers, antacids, etc. — baby formula, sleeping bags, extra clothes, matches, a fire extinguisher, feminine hygiene products, mess kits and writing supplies, the DHS said.

You should also talk to your medical provider to develop a plan for storing medication that may need to be refrigerated and figure out your medication’s expiration date, the DHS said.

Because you never know when or where an emergency will strike, the DHS suggests that emergency kits are stored at home, at your workplace and in your car.

The DHS said emergency kits should be reevaluated and restocked every year to ensure food and medicine don’t expire.

After the disaster

Utility officials said you should never touch downed wires. Instead, assume all wires are live and do not try to move them. Call 911 and your utility provider – SMUD at 888-456-7683 or PG&E at 800-743-5002 – to report a downed line.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee