The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging Californians to buy flood insurance and buy it soon. Since 1978, 37% of all flood insurance claims in the state have been from two winters – those of 1982-83 and 1997-98. What makes it likely that this winter will be as bad as those two? The answer is that those were the years when there were very strong El Niño conditions and the predictions for this winter are that this year the effect will be even greater.
What Is El Niño?
El Niño is a climatic phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that has an impact on global weather, with the greatest effect on the American Pacific Coast. Warm waters from the western Pacific Ocean move eastwards along the equator and normally collect in the area around the Philippines and Indonesia. When an El Niño condition develops, the waters sit off the coast of north western South America, near the surface. This sets up a feedback loop between the upper atmosphere and the ocean surface, resulting in massive precipitation across the Pacific Coast, and in California in particular. This is not just heavy rain, but massive downpours that can cause major flooding.
According to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the El Niño effect for this winter is expected to be one of the strongest since record keeping began in 1950.
A Little Child That Does a Lot Of Damage
El Niño is Spanish for “Little Boy” or “Christ Child.” The name was given by South American fishermen in the 17th century who noticed the effect that the warming of the waters had on their catch. El Niño is not just a localized phenomenon – its effects span the Pacific Ocean and reach India where it can ruin the monsoon.
In 1997-98 the flooding in California resulted in billions of dollars of damage and almost two dozen deaths. In 1982-83 the Sacramento area received 37.49 inches of rain which is the highest ever recorded in a season. It does not take an overactive imagination to appreciate the kind of damage that such rainfall can cause.
After years of drought, heavy rain will be welcome. But torrential downpour of the kind that El Niño will bring could, in a short period, do as much, if not more damage than all the years of low rain.
You Need To Act Now
The inaccuracy of weather forecasting has always been something to laugh at. But fact is that with modern technology and tools like computer modeling, forecasting is today far more reliable than it ever was. When the predictions are for a very strong El Niño, it will probably occur, and bring the big increase in flood risk. You can do a lot to minimize the potential damage, but there is no way to completely remove it. Go to the California Department of Water Resources website to learn more. Flood insurance is not normally covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Without this coverage, a flood can cause irreparable damage. Contact an insurance agent, today, to get the flood insurance you need to protect your home or to increase your existing coverage, if you feel it may not be adequate.