Wednesday, December 23, 2015

California Faces Increased Flood Risk

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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Next Big Quake is Due

For those living in California, earthquake predictions are a part of life. So much so that most minor tremors are often not even noticed. Warnings of an impending big one are usually given about as much importance as announcements that the sky is falling.

No One Is Crying Wolf

Experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) say that a big quake will hit the state in the next two and a half years. By big they mean a 5.0 magnitude, and perhaps even higher – up to 6.1 or more. The warning is based on extended research using the best technology available today. Earthquakes occur when the underground stress between the tectonic plates reach acritical point and the plates shift. The small and moderate quakes that are a common occurrence in the state do relieve some of the stress, but they can also cause the plates to shift to a more volatile position, making a big quake more likely. According to JPL, there is a 99% chance of a 5.0 magnitude quake hitting the Los Angeles area within 3 years. No part of the state is immune from the risk.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that the risk may not be so great. They say it is about 85%. But does that 14% reduction really mean much? Whichever source you believe, the chances are that a big quake is coming and coming soon. These are not doomsayers standing on street corners saying that the end is near. These are predictions from 2 of the most reputed scientific organizations in the world.

Earthquakes Are Inevitable

California has survived major quakes in the past and will do so in the future. The technology for earthquake prediction is improving and new materials and building systems are reducing the damage they cause. But earthquakes are the most powerful force of nature and will never be a way to completely negate the damage and loss they cause. Many people think that federal and state aid for earthquake victims will help them recover. It will not. This aid is meant only to provide immediate assistance to enable those affected to survive. It will not help them to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.

Are You Prepared?

Being prepared for a quake does not mean building a concrete bunker and never leaving it. Preparedness is understanding the damage that a severe quake can cause and taking steps to protect your family and property if it should happen. The California Department of Public Health portal on Earthquakes contains a great deal of information on quakes and how you can prepare for them. More information can be obtained online and from municipal authorities. No matter what you do, damage to your home will always be a risk. The only protection you have and the only way to recover from it is with earthquake insurance. Your homeowner’s policy will not cover quake damage. You will need a separate policy for this. If you do not have coverage or are worried that what you have may not be enough, contact an insurance agent to learn what you need to do to protect your home and your future. Remember, the next one may be really big.