Strong El Niño Prediction is a Sign to Get Your House and Insurance in Order
Homeowners should regularly review their policies to ensure that their home care needs are met and familiarize themselves with what types of damages will be covered. Remember to talk to your insurance agent about your protection options.
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that a significant El Niño event is expected to occur this year. Forecasters have issued an advisory stating that El Niño conditions are already developing and are expected to strengthen gradually as winter approaches.
El Niño is characterized by abnormally warm ocean temperatures around the equator in the Pacific Ocean. This seemingly small change dramatically influences weather patterns around the world. Typically, El Niño weather trends translate to an increase in rainfall for the southern United States and drier, warmer weather for the northern states. It also often leads to a weaker hurricane season for Gulf and East Coast states, but for West Coast residents the increased rainfall can increase the potential for water damage and flooding.
"Water damage is a huge concern when dealing with these storms, because it can impact the structural integrity of houses and wreak havoc on personal property. It's also one of the most common claims filed by homeowners," said Bonnie Lee, Mercury Insurance's Vice President of Property Claims.
Extra Threat for Wildfire and Drought-Stricken Areas: Excessive Rains That Trigger Mudslides and Flooding
The heavy storms from early 2023 may have replenished water supply in many areas in the West, but it doesn't mean that the threat of drought or wildfire is over. Droughts and fires this summer could lead to dangerous consequences when the rains begin to fall if hillsides are stripped of the vegetation that hold them in place. With these anchors gone, it's very possible heavy rains could weaken hillsides and create severe mudslides. Flash flooding is a very real possibility since hard, dried out soil doesn't absorb as much water. This can lead to sudden, fast-moving water – a combination with the capacity to do a lot of damage.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a mudslide is defined as earth and rock that travels downhill whereas a mudflow is a liquid stream of mud. Flood insurance covers both flood and mudflow damage, but only covers mudslide damage if defined exactly as the Standard Flood Insurance Policy defines mudflow.
Homeowners insurance does not generally cover flood and mudslide damage, so homeowners should do some research to find out if their home is located in a flood plain. If so, you may want to look into purchasing national flood insurance if you feel your home is in a high-risk area.
"Homeowners should regularly review their policies to ensure that their home care needs are met and familiarize themselves with what types of damages will be covered," Lee said. "It's important to do your research on flood zones and potential mudslide areas. Remember to talk to your insurance agent about your protection options.
Knowing that there is a high probability for persistent rainfall, homeowners should take preventative measures to protect themselves against damages that can occur during an El Niño season. Lee suggests the following tips to help minimize water and wind damage to your home and property.
Before a strong storm or weather event:
- Register your mobile phone for severe weather notifications.
- Hire an inspector to evaluate your home. Homeowners insurance will not cover damages that are a result of pre-existing conditions and negligence, so cover your bases and address these issues before they lead to bigger problems.
- Check for cracks or chips in windows and inspect their seals too. Door seals should also be inspected. Strong winds can easily shatter glass, inviting debris and water into your home. Weak seals and small leaks can create bigger issues if the water gets into the walls.
- Evaluate your roof. The roof of your home is an important barrier that protects your property from wind and rain. Walk through your home and check your ceilings and walls for any leaks, water rings or mold spots that might indicate possible roof damage and address any issues immediately. Have the exterior of your roof inspected for missing shingles, holes or weak spots by a licensed contractor.
- Clear gutters, downspouts and culverts.
- Have the foundation inspected for cracks and leaks.
- Remove trees and branches that are dead or dying from your yard to minimize the chances of damage to your home from fallen trees or snapped limbs. Remove branches and limbs in close proximity to your home. It may be smart to trim or relocate trees that are too close to your home.
- Keep an up-to-date inventory of your personal property in the event you need to make a claim.
- Speak with your insurance agent to review and understand the ins and outs of your homeowners insurance policy to ensure there are no surprises down the road.
- Determine whether or not your home is located in a flood plain, and consider purchasing federal flood insurance if it is.
- Prepare a family disaster plan and assemble emergency supply kits for your family and pets.
After the storm:
- If your home sustains damage, contact your insurance carrier or agent immediately and file a homeowners claim.
- If your property has sustained damage from a flood or mudflow and you have flood insurance, file a separate claim under your federal flood insurance.
- Remember to evaluate and document all damages in the event that rain or wind causes destruction on your property to help the claim process move forward smoothly.
- If your home is unsafe, take your family and pets out of the house. Your homeowners insurance may provide for alternative housing costs if you need to evacuate your home.
Save yourself the headache and hassle and make any necessary maintenance and repairs before inclement weather hits. These simple steps can reduce repair costs and may pay off big time in the long run.
About Mercury Insurance
Mercury Insurance (NYSE: MCY) is a multiple-line insurance carrier predominantly offering personal auto, homeowners and renters insurance through a network of independent agents in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, as well as auto insurance in Florida. Mercury writes other lines of insurance in various states, including commercial, business owners and business auto, landlord, home-sharing, ride-hailing and mechanical protection insurance.
Since 1962, Mercury has provided customers with tremendous value for their insurance dollar by pairing ultracompetitive rates with excellent customer service. Mercury has earned "A" ratings from A.M. Best and Fitch, as well as "Best Auto Insurance Company" designations from Forbes and Insure.com. For more information visit www.MercuryInsurance.com or follow the company on Twitter or Facebook.
SOURCE Mercury Insurance