For the past few months, attorneys here at Merlin Law Group have blogged about the anticipation of the El Niño storms and the expected impact that such a deluge of water may have on California property owners. Along with the volatile weather being experienced, some neighborhoods are experiencing micro-bursts of rain at the foothill of the mountains that are directly responsible for mudslides and mudflows into various neighborhood pockets. Already, many homeowners are experiencing mud losses and finding that unless they have flood insurance, their losses are not covered.
It would seem that Californians are heeding the warnings that flood insurance is a necessity. On January 6, 2016, FEMA announced that the purchase of National Flood Insurance Program policies increased by more than 20,000 in November 2015 due to the reports that El Niño brings fears of increased flooding.
Since October 2015, various Palmdale and Quartz Hill neighborhoods of Los Angeles County not in flood zones have already experienced mud losses due to the rains. According to FEMA Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton, "The major increase in flood policies show Californians are taking the threat seriously and taking powerful steps to protect their families and property. Those who may need and not have a flood policy should act today, as policies generally take 30 days to go into effect."
As we rapidly approach the heart of the El Niño season, if you are a homeowner or a business downhill from the foothills of Southern California, it would be wise to assess your location to see if flood coverage is recommended. Factors to consider include whether the area surrounding your neighborhood has had a wildfire within the last 5 years, if the area catch basins are regularly maintained, if there is a history of mudslides or mud runoff, and if the drainage and runoff areas of your street are regularly clogged or insufficient to handle heavy rains. Due to previous wildfires and drought, many areas in California are at an increased flood risk.
Flood insurance is limited to FEMA policies so there are few choices out there. However, if a mud loss occurs, flood insurance can be the difference between rebuilding or not. Janet Ruiz, California representative for the Insurance Information Institute indicates that, "We are encouraged by the number of Californians that are becoming financially prepared for the flooding that is expected from El Niño. . . .It is crucial to protect our families and homes by preparing for catastrophes ahead of time."