Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
New National Flood Insurance Program Data Released by FEMA
March 21st, 2016 by Susan Smith
In February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded to concern about increased El Nino flood risk by releasing new data on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, which showed an increase in more than 27,000 new NFIP policies written in California during the month of December 2015.
According to Mary Simms of FEMA, El Nino is an occurrence we don’t see all that often, but every year flooding is ranked as the #1 natural disaster in US terms of cost and fatalities. “El Nino has raised awareness but oftentimes people are at risk but don’t realize it,” she said. “This is helpful in terms of helping people become aware of risk and a gap they didn’t know existed.”
There is an unprecedented increase of more than 55,500 new flood insurance policies purchased in California from August 31 – December 31, 2015. This is a nearly 25% increase for the state and the first of its kind in any state, in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program, created in 1968.
While not all NFIP claims are attributed to El Nino, there is reason to believe that the media has raised awareness of flooding as an issue and that most homeowners’ policies don’t cover flood insurance. During January 2016, FEMA has already seen 127 National Flood Insurance Program policyholders submit claims in California compared to only 1 claim submitted in California for the same period in 2015.
“It has not been uncommon during past strong El Nino events to go through drier periods, even during the winter months,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Carpenter. “A change in the weather pattern around the last week of February may start bringing the storm track farther south and across more of California into March.”
“Many areas are at an increased risk of flood because we’ve been in such a prolonged drought,” said Simms. “And extreme drought creates a ground that is almost like asphalt so it doesn’t easily absorb rainwater, and that increases the chances of flash flooding.”
Forecasts from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center of climate anomalies associated with El Nino may result in some minimal improvements to drought conditions across much of California and western Nevada through the end of April, according to press materials
There are several tools that homeowners can use to identify their own flood risk including floodsmart.gov and ready.gov.