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California summit offers advice for preparing for El Nino's floods

Nothing can stand in the way of nature's fury, so politicians and policymakers are mobilizing months ahead for a winter pounding expected courtesy of El Nino.

"It's not possible to over-prepare," Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan said as he urged constituents to clear clogged gutters and drains and lay in emergency supplies before the rains arrive.There's little more that anyone can do than remove potential hazards from homes and property, get ready to sandbag or reinforce weak structures, get familiar with the proper drills if disaster strikes - and then wait.

Tuesday's daylong summit brings together Vice President Al Gore; James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Scheduled to speak are representatives of business, labor, insurers and communities from California, Oregon and Arizona. Warner Bros. and The Walt Disney Co., two Hollywood studios that often help Washington get out its message, signed on.

The advice ranges from the simple - fix leaky roofs, restock emergency kits and prepare family members - to the subtle. A regional director of the Humane Society of the United States offered a reminder to include pets in the plans.

In an interview Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Witt had another suggestion: "If you live in a flood-risk area, make sure you have flood insurance. A lot of people who have homeowners' insurance think they have flood insurance," but actually don't.

"We don't want to worry people," Witt said. "We want people to make sure they are as prepared as they can be."

An El Nino occurs about every two to seven years, when westward-blowing trade winds weaken and a warm mass of tropical Pacific water pushes across the Pacific from Australia to South America.