Magazine article Insight on the News

Coast Prepares for Wet Winter

Magazine article Insight on the News

Coast Prepares for Wet Winter

Article excerpt

The government is warning Californians to boost their insurance coverage as meteorologists predict wild weather connected with El Nino.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has issued a dire warning to California residents: Better ante up for some additional flood insurance. Should predictions of El Nino's devastation come true, there's no guarantee that the federal government will come to the rescue.

El Nino, the name given to warm currents in the Pacific Ocean that periodically upset weather patterns along the West Coast and elsewhere, has begun to wreak havoc with the state's fish and wildlife, which are shifting their migratory patterns in response to rapidly increasing ocean temperatures. Californians fear that rains of a duration not seen in this century could bring the state to its knees before the end of winter.

"Without flood insurance, many people could lose everything," warns one dramatic FEMA ad being broadcast in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. "Don't wait for El Nino's rains to start." The federal agency, which provides relief in the case of disasters, cautions that the president must declare a region a disaster area before it can provide financial help.

But flood insurance is a tough sell, say agents, because most people believe high waters won't drown their dreams. In fact, statistics bear them out. For FEMA to declare an area high risk, it need only have a 0.02 percent chance of flooding in any given year.

Californians are used to risk -- many decline to buy into the state's earthquake-insurance program, which sells minimum coverage for maximum prices. Now they are opting to protect their assets themselves, creating a boom for roofers from San Francisco to San Diego. "People are really worried," says Robert Elliott of Elliott and Elliott Roofing in Oakland. "People started calling up in July. Now we're 165 appointments behind."

Even as homeowners fortify their property, municipalities from Oakland to San Diego are preparing for disaster. The last big El Nino, during the winter of 1982-83, caused upward of $200 million in damage and killed 14 people. While Northern California may avoid the battering storms altogether, the southern part of the state is likely to take a hit.

"We've been working really hard to get ready for this," says Chris Balch, emergency management coordinator for the City of San Diego. "We have 200 potential evacuation centers ready and we're working closely with the city of Tuuana to make sure that we have coordinated efforts along the Tuuana River. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.