How Los Angeles International Airport is preparing for El Nino

Most of the time, it is sunny at LAX. But look for a lot of rain this winter. Photo: Glenn Beltz/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Most of the time, it is sunny at LAX. But look for a lot of rain this winter. Photo: Glenn Beltz/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It is going to rain this winter in Los Angeles. 

Laugh all you want, but Angelenos are not prepared. I have lived here for more than six years, and I think I have seen fewer than 20 truly poor weather days. But every now and then, we get what's called an El Nino, a weather phenomenon that brings major storms in January, February and March. And this year is going to be a big one, experts say.

"It’s official. El Niño’s here. It’s a done deal,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times. 

Los Angeles International Airport is used to 72 degrees and sunny, almost year-round. This is not an airport nor a city accustomed to inclement weather. But in a recent presentation, airport employees promising the facility's governing board that they are ready for major rain.

Here's some of what they fear happening this winter:

  • Sepulveda Tunnel Flooding. This is a tunnel for cars that runs underneath runways.
  • Stranded Passengers
  • Possible Construction Delays 
  • Passenger Conveyances Out-Of-Service. [This is a fancy term for something.]
  • Minor Flooding
  • Heavy Traffic 

Of course, airport officials say they have taken steps to mitigate most problems. Here are some specific ones they think they can handle.

  • Ponding In Alleyways, Taxiways, And Runways
  • Water In Fuel Pits
  • Possible Large Cracks Or Instability In Select Parts Of The Airfield
  • Flooding In And Around Gate Areas [The workaround here is extra sandbags.]

Here's the full report prepared for the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. 

Have you lived through an El Nino in Los Angeles? What's it like? How do the region's airport handle it?