Preparing for El Nino’s Winter Weather

(BPT) – This winter is anticipated to be a significantly wet one due to the climate phenomenon known as El Niño. Developing over the summer, this year’s El Niño event is forecasted to be notably strong and expected to intensify, increasing the likelihood of a wetter-than-average winter.

El Niño is a weather pattern characterized by abnormally warm ocean temperatures around the equator in the Pacific Ocean. For the United States, typical El Niño weather translates to an increase in rainfall for the South and West, increasing the potential for water damage and flooding in these areas.

“Water damage is one of the most common claims filed by homeowners and becomes a huge concern when dealing with these types of storms,” said Bonnie Lee, Vice President of Property Claims for Mercury Insurance. “The intensity of a storm can impact the structural integrity of houses and wreak absolute havoc on personal property.”

Homeowners insurance does not generally cover flood and mudslide damage, so property owners 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 are in a high-risk area.

It’s also crucial for homeowners to consider the increased precipitation risk factor in drought-stricken or wildfire-affected areas, due to their potential for mudslides and flash flooding.

“Homeowners need to regularly review their policies to ensure that their home care needs are met and familiarize themselves with what types of damages will be covered,” said Lee. “It’s important to research on flood zones and potential mudslides in your area and talk to your insurance agent about your concerns and protection options.”

Knowing that there is a high probability for persistent rainfall this winter, homeowners should take preventative measures to protect themselves against damages that can occur. Lee suggests the following tips to help minimize water and wind damage to your home and property:

  • Sign up for severe weather alerts to stay informed on an El Niño weather-related event.
  • While the weather is dry, consider hiring a professional home inspector to evaluate your home. Homeowners insurance will not cover the cost of repairing pre-existing conditions, so cover your bases and address these issues before they lead to bigger problems.
  • Inspect window and door seals and make any necessary repairs to prevent potential water damage. 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.
  • Check gutters and downspouts and make sure they are clear of debris to maintain proper drainage.
  • Perform routine property maintenance like tree trimming and clearing away dead branches to mitigate roof and gutter damage from severe weather.
  • Keep an updated record of your personal property for insurance purposes.
  • If your home is situated in a flood plain, consider purchasing flood insurance.
  • Consider adding a standby or portable generator to help keep electricity on to run essential appliances, A/C and some lights.
  • Establish a family disaster plan and create emergency kits in case you need to evacuate in the event of severe weather conditions.
  • Regularly review your homeowner’s insurance policy with your agent to understand what is covered.

Also consider joining your local community’s resource group for additional support.

If your home sustains damage after a severe weather-related event, 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 flood insurance. 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.

“Save yourself from any headache and hassle and make the necessary maintenance and repairs you need before inclement weather hits,” said Lee. “A few simple measures can reduce repair costs and may pay off big time in the long run.”


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