El Niño. The most popular two words on the nightly news. The weather reports are inundated by El Niño and its effects on your local weather. But what exactly is El Niño and how does it impact the way you manage your commercial and municipal property?
What is El Nino?
“According to the National Weather Service, “El Niño is a state where the water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator become abnormally warm. This is a natural cycle that repeats itself on average about once every two to seven years. El Niño tends to begin in the summer and usually peak in intensity during the following winter.”
El Niño disrupts weather patterns on the West Coast causing storm surges, torrential rain storms, and mud slides. California is not alone in the El Niño effect. Property managers throughout the U.S, including the Southwest, and the Rocky Mountain states need to prepare for landscape maintenance issues caused by El Niño.
How Does El Niño Affect Your Property?
After years of heat and drought conditions in California and the Southwest, what should you expect from El Niño? Over the winter months, we are all experiencing increased rain and snowfall and in some cases severe flooding.
Some of the most devastating and damaging effects of the rains and El Niño on landscaping are:
- Soil erosion from heavy rain and water runoff
- Damage to parking lots, streets, and roadways
- Drainage and flooding
- Tree and plant damage, such as fallen trees due to saturated soil and high winds
Preparing Your Property for El Niño
What can you do to prepare your property? Here are a few suggestions to help you protect your property from the damaging effects of El Niño.
Evaluate your Property
We often think that El Niño is just a news item that does not impact us locally. However, every property manager should evaluate their landscape and storm water drainage before and after storms. Take a walk through the property to assess the landscape and outdoor maintenance needs. Contact a professional landscape maintenance contractor to assist with this.
Protect Against Soil Erosion
To control soil around plant beds, turf and trees, mulch areas that may be prone to erosion. Here are a few simple landscape modifications that can be made to prevent runoff:
- Installing netting to help secure slopes
- Add mulch and mount waddles to differ water runoff.
More extensive erosion control may be needed and this can be evaluated with your landscape maintenance contractor.
Use Sustainable Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees
For commercial property managers, the severe weather conditions will impact your property’s landscaping in some way. To minimize this risk, consider evaluating the variety of plants that are most durable for your region.
I suggest planting drought tolerant ground cover, such as Lantana, Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet, Myoporum ‘Pacificum’ Cotoneaster. Ground cover plants will help to stabilize the plant bed and will blanket sloped areas to reduce erosion or water runoff.
Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Trees
Trees can become stressed during extreme changes in weather. A quick shift from drought conditions to severe rain can be taxing on weak or even healthy trees. Regular pruning and tree maintenance is recommended to reduce end weight on branches that might fall during high winds and storm surges.
Removing weak and broken limbs will help to prevent damage to cars and building structures and reduce susceptibility to tree disease.
Keep Storm Drains Clear
With large volumes of water falling in a short period of time, it is extremely important to clean and clear debris from outdoor drains regularly on the property. At times, install subgrade drains in areas where storm water tends to collect and flood. This will assist in reducing flooding during rain and snow run off.
In landscape areas with continued problems with flooding, the layout and landscape design of your property may be poorly designed to prevent damage and flooding. Retention or detentions ponds may be r in flood zone areas. Consider installing additional drainage, hardscapes, bark and drought tolerant plants to help prevent further damage from the El Niño effects.
Maintain Parking Lots and Walkways
Extreme hot and cold weather, combined with water is a recipe for damaged hardscapes. After a wet and cold winter, parking lots and walkways will show signs of cracks and those unavoidable, potholes. Not repairing the damage can create an eyesore or worse as it is dangerous to pedestrians and drivers.
Volatile weather conditions are predicted to continue. Drought conditions and torrential rains are in the forecast. El Niño weather conditions impact everything outdoors from landscape plants, trees and turf to parking lots, streets, irrigation and stormwater management. Start by evaluating your outdoor maintenance needs to protect your property from the El Niño’s effect.
Want to Know More?
We have published several articles about the impact of weather on
- Storm Water Management
- Municipal and Park Landscaping
- Highway Maintenance and Pot Holes
- Landscape Preservation and Soil Erosion