News Releases
The latest news and announcements from Mayor London N. Breed

Mayor Lee & City Agencies Announce Temporary Winter Shelter System And City Preparations For Expected El Nino Storms

San Francisco Encourages Residents & Businesses to Prepare for Expected El Niño Storms

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced the City’s storm-preparation and response plans, and strategy to shelter homeless living on the streets for the anticipated wet El Niño winter.

He was joined by the City’s Department of Emergency Management, Human Services Agency, Department of Public Health, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Public Works and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to discuss the coordinated storm-related efforts that are underway and in partnership with nonprofits and community groups across San Francisco.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center has predicted an approximate 95 percent chance that a strong to very strong El Niño storm system will occur this winter. If El Niño storms approach the Bay Area, heavy rains, high winds, power outages, mudslides and landslides could occur. San Francisco is actively preparing for a possible strong El Niño storm system since the fall of this year.

“San Francisco has conducted extensive planning for the expected wet, El Niño winter storms and the City’s emergency, public utility crews and health and social service agencies are preparing today so that we are ready,” said Mayor Lee. “Part of the extensive planning is a focus on care for our most vulnerable. That’s why we have secured locations throughout San Francisco where our homeless and most in need residents can find a dry and warm place to sleep and receive hot meals and health care.”

The San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) is planning to open up to 1,100 additional beds in response to El Niño. These emergency shelters are located throughout San Francisco and are independent from the City’s existing homeless shelter services and winter shelter program. People can bring their pets and belongings whenever possible. HSA will provide sleeping mats, blankets, and hygiene kits. Meals will be provided by the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Project Open Hand, and Glide. As part of the emergency response, the health department will provide physical and mental health triage.

“San Francisco will be able to open temporary emergency shelters throughout the City,” said San Francisco Human Services Agency Executive Director Trent Rhorer. “By providing locations citywide, we hope it is easier for homeless people to access shelter when significant El Niño rains begin.”

San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) have distributed almost 10,000 sandbags in recent weeks at neighborhood pop-up Sandbag Saturday distribution sites in the Mission, the Richmond, the Sunset, the South of Market, and Marina neighborhoods. Residents and business owners received up to 10 free sandbags to help protect their property. Sandbags will continue to be available for San Francisco residents and businesses throughout the winter storm season at the Public Works’ operations yard, 2323 Cesar Chavez St. (Marin/Kansas street gate). They can be retrieved Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Additionally, Public Works and the SFPUC are clearing catch basins, pruning trees and performing other storm-preparation work, and are prepared to respond to storm-related hazards to keep all San Franciscans safe. Residents and businesses can visit for more information.  

“Together, we are preparing for what may be a very wet and windy winter,” said San Francisco Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “We will have sandbags on hand for people who really need them. If you live in an area that has flooded in the past, take time to prepare so you can care for your home and your neighborhood.”

“We work year-round cleaning the City’s 25,000 storm drains and our crews are ready to respond,” said San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly. “Don’t wait for heavy rains to start preparing, especially in low-lying areas that have flooded in the past. You can purchase flood insurance, elevate belongings and during a storm clear clogged drains not draining due to debris.”

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) is ensuring business – large, medium and small – are prepared for the expected winter storms and are aware of the City’s preparations. OEWD will have their small business response teams on standby during the storms to respond to small businesses or commercial corridors when needed. Businesses can visit for more information.

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is responsible for coordinating the City’s planning, response, and recovery from El Niño-related storms. During the initial forecast of a severe storm with potential for significant impacts, DEM will convene a conference call with the Storm Incident Management Team (IMT) and other partner agencies to share situational awareness, discuss agency issues, and identify resource needs. If necessary, San Francisco’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be activated to support field operations, coordinate City resources, and provide public information.

“San Francisco has learned from previous El Niño and severe winter storm events,” said San Francisco Department of Emergency Management Executive Director Anne Kronenberg. “We have put our plans into action and hosted several workgroups, trainings, and exercises so the City is prepared to respond to heavy rains, high winds, and potential flooding.”

The public has a role in helping San Francisco recover from an emergency—and being prepared at home or work is a major part of that. San Franciscans are encouraged to visit to learn how to get prepared for any type of emergency. The public is also encouraged to register for to receive emergency notifications and information via text message and email.