A bomb cyclone and atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that unleashed heavy rain to parts of the Bay Area this Sunday. The cocktail of heavy rains, rising rivers, strong winds of more than 50 MPH, and desolated soil due to burn scars and last summer fires caused immediate flash flooding and destruction.

Northern California Cyclone and Atmospheric River Flooding

Today, we want to talk about what this event means for your flood insurance and how you can protect yourself from being caught in a loss from all the flood damage that this weather brings.

Bomb Cyclones & Atmospheric River

According to the news report on this weather by CBS News, the atmospheric river — a band carrying more water vapor than the surrounding air — was elevated to a Category 5, the highest designation on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Extreme Weather Lab scale. This generally means that this situation is considered the most hazardous since there's the guaranteed flood, gusty winds, and debris flow from it.

Considering how the state of California is constantly facing wildfires, this type of weather prompted an evacuation order as leftover ashes and debris can fuel mudslides or lead to more severe flooding. The Santa Cruz Mountains. At the time of writing, two centers are reported being used as evacuation areas in Sacramento.

Northern California Cyclone and Atmospheric River Flooding

Other than the atmospheric river storm, we also need to take into account the inches of rain that was dumped into the northern areas of California. In Marin County alone, the community of Karin received 7 inches of rain during this time.

Furthermore, a lot of highways were closed due to the flooding that this weather presented and chain controls are also imposed to further ensure the safety of motorists traveling. The chain control orders are generally used for when there's snow on the roads, but the impacted counties will have to see this implemented due to the heavy rain and snowfall. The California Department of Transportation also known as Caltrans reported flooding and rock slides.

Northern California Cyclone and Atmospheric River Flooding

It would be a relief to say that other than the damages that the flooding and strong winds brought, there were no casualties however this situation already took two lives as a tree fell on them in the Seattle area.

In the Sierra Nevada, potential flash floods, heavy snow, and high winds are expected to be experienced until Tuesday. This atmospheric river storm can also mean that entire Northern California will face widespread power outages.

Nebraska 2019

About two years ago, Nebraska also faced the same challenge when a bomb cyclone blasted the western areas of Nebraska. This weather made sure that Nebraska's west was whiteout with a major storm that caused flooding and rapid runoff that was enough to destroy the Spencer Dam when floodwater and ice slabs hit the dam during the bomb cyclone event.

It's important to note that Nebraska doesn't really have fires as part of the equation which testifies to how bad the situation was. The flood damage to Nebraska alone totaled $2.7 billion and over 7,000 homes were destroyed by this single event alone. NOAA estimated total damage from this historic flood event at $10.8 billion, one of the nation's costliest inland flood events on record.

So, what does this mean for flood insurance on the West Coast and how can you better protect yourself?

How to Protect Yourself

We want to get through this first as safety should be everyone's priority. You might think that you're already safe, but in order to be safe, we still encourage following these steps.

First, you want to make sure that you always have a flood insurance policy in place on your property. Most standard flood insurance policies will cover you for both the damages to your home and the things inside of it or its contents. This is a very crucial first step as this would immediately take off all your worries about your property. We'll talk more about how a flood policy can help you get protected.

We also encourage you to follow necessary evacuation orders or precautions such as sandbagging the perimeter of your house, raising certain electronic devices and valuables to higher ground, and moving you and/or your family to a higher area preferably the designated evacuation centers.

In the event that there's no power in the area, avoid wandering in the flood as there are hidden threats in those waters such as debris and even the possibility of a sudden power surge that may electrocute you. It's best to wait for the rescue team sent out by the government before moving.

How Does Flood Insurance Protect You?

Flood insurance is available to be purchased from both the federal government and private flood insurance companies. This is a separate policy and, as we mentioned before, will allow you to protect yourself from any flood loss due to flooding. This also means that the toxic runoff and flash flood due to precipitation and excessive rainfall will be covered by a single flood insurance policy.

The NFIP

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is purely managed by the federal government since this is FEMA's answer to flood insurance. An NFIP flood policy can get you flood coverage on both your dwelling and the contents within it. When we say dwelling, this simply pertains to either the residential property or commercial building that you're trying to insure with NFIP and FEMA; contents will be more about the personal property and items you have inside the insured building.

There is a coverage limit when it comes to federal flood policies. Flood damage to buildings will be covered to a maximum of $250,000 for residential policies and can only go up to $500,000 maximum if it's for a commercial property. Regardless of the type of property you have written, you can expect to get a $100,000 maximum contents coverage from an NFIP policy.

There's also what's called the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. This is a $30,000 additional coverage for your property in order to make sure that there are flood mitigation efforts made on the property according to the federal government's standards.

Generally, this can include sandbagging your property, installing floodproofing walls, raising your lowest floor from the base flood elevation levels, and putting flood openings. The labor that goes into making these mitigation efforts happen will also be covered under the ICC.

Northern California Cyclone and Atmospheric River Flooding

The good thing about the NFIP and FEMA is that they won't really push you immediately to the waters. Instead, they will allow you to ease into the possible flood insurance rate changes you'll be getting with your new flood zone. This is what's called newly mapped rates where FEMA will have you pay a lower flood rate or premium on your first year after the flood map update. This is also known as the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) and will slowly start to increase until you meet the actual flood insurance premium expected to be paid for in your new flood zone.

There are also perks with your participating community in Saint Petersburg. A participating community gets access to federal flood insurance and disaster assistance, but more importantly, you also get to work with your community on raising your Community Rating System (CRS) score. The CRS measures and rewards the overall flood mitigation efforts done by the community according to FEMA's standards on floodplain management. Simply put, the higher your CRS score is, the bigger the flood insurance discount you'll get from FEMA and the NFIP.

You can start enjoying your NFIP policy after a 30-day waiting period from the flood insurance purchase.

Northern California Cyclone and Atmospheric River Flooding

The Private Flood

If the federal flood insurance option doesn't really work for you then you can manage this new floodplain mapping through the private flood insurance market. It's important to note that this market will solely be managed and provided by private insurance companies which generally means that the red tapes FEMA and NFIP has to go through won't be there.

The first thing you'll immediately see with the private flood market is that there are significantly shorter waiting periods for your flood policy. Once you have everything settled and paid for, a private flood insurance policy can take effect on 7 or up to 14 days maximum. 

Another good thing coming out of private flood insurance is that there are no coverage limits. This means that you won't really need to stress over how to get covered for a $500,000 home since it will be fully covered by your policy. This is the same with contents coverage and you'll also get additional coverages like replacement costsadditional living expenses, and loss of use.

Fair warning, it's a known issue in the private insurance market in general that they will do moratoriums when there are risks that are too high for their comforts. This simply means that they will either put a stop or take a break from providing flood insurance policies to a certain area that has higher risks. There's also a chance that you might not get to buy flood insurance from them once they decide to non-renew your policy.

At the end of the day, the choice of where you'll be getting flood insurance depends on you. What's really important is that you know your flood risks and have enough protection from all possible outcomes of a flood event such as flood loss and flood damage.

Flooding can happen anywhere even in areas where it doesn't look like it will flood. It's to always stay ahead of the curve and make sure that you're prepared for anything. If you have questions on flood insurance coverage, Risk Rating 2.0, or anything related to flood, click below to access our Flood Learning Center where we try to answer all of your questions on flood insurance and more.

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Remember, we have an educational background in flood mitigation which lets us help you understand your flood risks, flood policy, and mitigating your property long-term.

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Since the beginning of time, we were always accustomed to thinking that fire and water can only destroy one another. What if I told you that in the case of California, fires actually worsen the amount of water that we get when there's flooding.

Today, we want to discuss how these fires in California have been impacting the flooding on the west coast and communities can best prepare themselves for this type of condition.

How Do the California Fires Impact Flooding?

Fire and Floodwater in California

If you told people outside of the west coast that fires and drought can lead to worse floods, some might find it hard to believe however this is the perfect cocktail that's been ravaging the western areas of the country and most specifically California.

At the time of writing, a bomb cyclone and atmospheric rivers caused a lot of flash floods, toxic runoff, rockslides, and mudslides after a significant amount of rain was dumped in the area. We've covered this topic in our previous blog. What we want to focus on is how even in recent times, this tag team of wildfire and floods are causing a lot of trouble in California.

How Do the California Fires Impact Flooding?

If we look back in 2018, Butte County and Los Angeles were hit with 1 and a half inches of rain which is fairly common anywhere else, but this was enough to cause catastrophic flooding. How did that relatively small amount of rainfall be enough to cause floods?

Well, at the time that this happened, California's soil was badly scarred by the deadliest wildfire in history. The flood was due to the fact that the soil in the area was totally incapable of holding any of that water so it just caused all of the debris to flow into nearby areas.

Fires Becoming a Flood Risk

It's highly noticeable, even without looking at the numbers, that the risk of flooding in California is significantly high. This is highly due to the constant fires that are also constantly presenting potential impacts to future floods. The risk of floods in these areas is also significantly dangerous due to destructive debris flows which contain all the toxic chemicals from burnt materials.

These debris flows are commonly due to the surface erosion that we're seeing in areas where there has been a fire. A fire can easily destroy the overall quality of the soil in these areas which is why a small amount of rain becomes the biggest flood hazard with equal destructiveness to the fires themselves. Equally, when that toxic debris flows get into the water supply, there's also a health risk being presented to the residents of the impacted communities and/or areas. 

These threats can happen even with a small amount of rain and it escalates further when we start to talk about heavy rains. The stronger the rain in these areas is, the more vicious the debris flows become, and once this flows into reservoirs and dams, it's a bigger problem for these communities.

How Do the California Fires Impact Flooding?

How Flood Insurance Helps

Flood insurance is becoming more relevant now with the current climate change and it's one of the most essential insurance policies you can have. It's important to note that flood damage to your property won't be covered by any other insurance other than flood insurance.

In the case of California and the current condition it's facing with the bomb cyclone and atmospheric rivers, we encourage that each resident will get one for their property since there's a lot of flood hazards going around presented not just by rain, but also through those wildfires.

Flood insurance covers any loss that was resulted because of a flood. Any surface water will be considered as a flood once it affects at least two acres of land or two properties. This means that what happened in California and the west coast due to the bomb cyclone already qualifies for flood insurance coverage.

Flood Insurance Options in California

How Do the California Fires Impact Flooding?

When you buy flood insurance from the government-backed market under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you will get covered for both dwelling and contents. Dwelling coverage or building coverage will max out at $250,000 and contents coverage will max out at $100,000.

This will be all of the coverage you'll be getting through FEMA and the NFIP. The only other additional coverage you can get is the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) which can really help you protect your home from floodwaters. This is an additional $30,000 solely dedicated to flood mitigation however it must be said that this is something that your community should apply for.

You can learn more about federal flood insurance and the NFIP Risk Rating 2.0 by checking out our previous blog.

How Do the California Fires Impact Flooding?

On the other hand, you also have the private flood insurance market which offers no coverage limits on their flood policies. This means two things: one, you don't have to take up all that $250,000 even when you don't need it and, lastly, you can make sure that you get covered for more than $250,000.

Private flood insurance also helps you find more peace of mind as it can also provide replacement costs, additional living expenses, and loss of use.

Regardless of your flood insurance carrier choice, it's still best to keep a policy intact with your property. Climate change is drastically changing the landscape of how natural disasters — from droughts to sudden downpours of rain — and we must be vigilant to keep up with these changes.

If you have any questions on how fires impact flood insurance, where your flood insurance coverage starts and stops, or anything about floods, click below so you could call us or go to our Flood Learning Center where we try to answer your flood insurance questions.

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Remember, we have an educational background in flood mitigation which lets us help you understand your flood risk, flood insurance, and mitigating the value of your property long-term.

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It's been cold then hot and going back in forth with the bad weather day moments we have in the country. Most parts of the country are still recovering from Hurricane Ida and major areas were devastated by strong winds and widespread flooding.

How Will The Caldor Fire Impact Flooding in California?

Today, we want to talk about the recent wildfire event in California that the National Incident Management and Cal Fire are still trying to resolve, how this will impact future floods in the impacted areas and counties, and what these wildfires can mean for floods. We will also discuss how this will impact Lake Tahoe despite being spared from the Caldor Fire.

Flames after the Storm

As we were moving past Hurricane Ida, extreme weather patterns show its impacts as California was hit by a massive wildfire event in the middle of August as yet to be determined cause started the fast-moving Caldor Fire at South Lake Tahoe and spread towards El Dorado and Amador Counties. This prompted President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency for California 

About 220,000 acres of land were engulfed by the Caldor Fire prompting mandatory evacuation measures. At the time of writing, good news came to residents as the evacuation orders were lifted for the entire west area of the Caldor Fire such as Sly Park, Pollock Pines, and Grizzly Flat. The east zone of the state is expecting to get minimal to moderate fire behavior.

How Will The Caldor Fire Impact Flooding in California?

However, it's important to note that the fire is still active for 24 days now with only 50% estimated containment. More than 50,000 people remain evacuated due throughout the region, including into Nevada and at least 664 structures have been destroyed including at least 482 single homes, 11 commercial properties, and 171 other minor structures. The damage assessments continue at the time of writing, so we really don't have an accurate damage report yet.

As the Caldor Fire slows, three new wildfires erupt causing red flag warnings for portions of central Oregon and central northern California. We also have to take into writing that the Dixie Fire scorched more than 900,000 acres across five counties in Northern California since its genesis on July 14.

We hope that everyone will be safe especially in the areas like Amador County, Douglas County, and Placer County in Nevada. If you receive any evacuation warnings, don't hesitate to go to an evacuation center. Please be safe and take care.

The Irony of the Spared Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe was spared from the Caldor Fire however this actually presents an ironic situation when it comes to natural disasters. We've previously talked about the impacts of wildfires, such as the Gatlinburg Fire (Tennessee) in 2016, and other disasters when it comes to natural disasters, and the Caldor Fire won't be different.

Now that a lot of that forest became ashes and the ground that once held it is now scorched, it's very likely that when rain gets dump in the area during cooler weather, it will cause a lot of flooding for California. Forests are one of the best natural protections we have against flood water and since they're no longer in the equation, there's nothing getting between that water and your property. The Caldor Fire was huge enough that it started the haze obscured both the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline on August 18.

Areas like El Dorado County, Alpine County, Amador County, and Douglas County are also prone to flash flooding, mudflows, landslides, and mudslides once a sufficient amount of rain gets dumped on this area.

How Will The Caldor Fire Impact Flooding in California?

The biggest issue with scorched land like this is that the ground itself might not be able to sustain any form of vegetation to contain water from rain, if not floods. The ground impacted by both the Caldor Fire and Dixie Fire might not see any green leaves anytime soon. Once that rain hits, it's like water hitting cement. It will go nowhere, but down.

The lifting of evacuation orders doesn't really address the flood that may come after and even Lake Tahoe was spared from the Caldor Fire, once the lake starts to rise it's most likely that the first area we'll see a lot of water is on the South Lake Tahoe and other low-lying areas impacted by the fire.

The thing is only floods and mudflows will be covered by your flood insurance policy. The fire itself, mudslides, and/or landslides will be covered by another policy. We encourage everyone to put safety and your insurance as the biggest priority during these times. We've seen how unpredictably dangerous weather conditions are this year alone.

How Will The Caldor Fire Impact Flooding in California?

Safety First

There's no telling what can happen next and it may sound contradicting, but floods might come any time soon for these impacted areas and nearby communities to the Caldor Fire. As containment efforts continue in the region, we want should be sure to make sure we have enough coverage from our insurance policies when disaster strikes.

If you have questions on flood insurance, how are wildfires cover by your flood insurance policy, or anything about flood, reach out to us by clicking below:

Get Your Flood Risk Score Here!

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Remember, we have an educational background in flood mitigation which lets us help you understand flood risks like the ones that wildfires present, your flood insurance policy, and mitigating your property long-term.

Be safe, be alert, and eureka, California.